The Blues return to Eden Park on Friday night for their round eight clash with the Sharks determined to salvage their season and reignite their faltering campaign.
A charged down drop goal attempt against the Crusaders and a last minute intercept try to the Hurricanes are all that have separated the Blues from two victories on their home turf this season.
But a bitterly disappointing loss to the Rebels last week, their fifth defeat in six matches, has left the Blues’ season in disarray as they currently sit in second to last position on the Super Rugby table.
With such high hopes for the talent-laden Blues squad at the start of the year, it is perhaps all the more painful to see them staring down the barrel of their worst ever start to a Super Rugby season, and things don’t get any easier for Pat Lam’s men as they face a strong Sharks team.
The Durban based franchise have had their own problems to contend with, managing three wins and four losses so far this season including last week’s 42-18 defeat to the Hurricanes. But the Sharks are the bogey team for the Blues, with the Aucklanders last tasting success against them seven years ago in 2005.
With his team riding low on confidence, Blues head coach Pat Lam knows his side needs to win at all costs on Friday night to restore some self-belief and generate momentum.
“A victory is incredibly important; we need to break the habit of losing,î Lam said. ìWe’ve had some close losses and everyone’s determined to right this ship. When confidence is down it’s important that we get back to basics and bring energy and enthusiasm.
“There are guys here with a lot of pride, guys here that are hurting and we know what we’re capable of if we play as a team and we’re determined to rip into it.”
Lam has promoted up-and-coming lock Liaki Moli to the starting XV in the hope of bringing that energy and enthusiasm, benching 73-Test All Black veteran Ali Williams.
“Ali has started every game and he’s working himself into some good rugby but we need some fresh legs and I think Ali coming off the bench will give us that leadership at a crucial time in the match,” Lam said.
“In Filo and Liaki, you’ve got two young guys who have been pushing hard at training and when they’ve been given the opportunity, particularly last week, they brought a lot of energy. We’re going to need that and Ali will bring that off the bench.”
The Blues still have plenty of belief they can mount a †comeback. Last season they made the semi-finals with five losses, so they know if things click into place it’s not too late to resurrect their season.
“Belief is a big thing. If you lose the hope you’re wasting your time playing but there is still a huge amount of belief in this side. We lost five games last year and we made the finals and no team has shot away but we can’t look at that. We’ve got to focus on game-to-game and that means getting the win.
“We know if we can get a win and work hard for it that will make a massive lift around the whole environment and then we can build to the next game.”