The Blues’ Super Rugby Season so far has been another of frustration. But somehow someway, the Auckland-based club could still make headlines before all is said and done.
Believe it or not, Tana Umaga and his men are still in with a chance of making the playoffs. It is possible, some would say improbable, but if the Blues win their next three games against the Hurricanes, Brumbies, and Waratahs, they will be in the Quarter Finals. So far in 2016, the men from Auckland have won six, lost five, and drawn one. In their six wins, only one has come against a fellow New Zealand Conference rival–that being the 33-31 win over the Highlanders way back in Round One.
Since then, the Blues have been struggling with inconsistent form on the field and a variety of injuries to key players off the field.
The Blues lost powerful midfielder Rene Ranger prior to the International window. During the All Blacks series against Wales, key prop Charlie Faumuina suffered a knee ligament sprain. Standout centre George Moala has also been ruled out for the rest of the season with an elbow ligament tear.
Raw experience was lost with those three injuries, as much as skill. It adds to a mounting list that already features the likes of Tanerau Latimer and Ben Lam. Let’s not forget that the Ioane brothers have joined camp with the All Black Sevens, taking some impressive form along with them.
Can The Blues Still Make The Playoffs?
But still, the Blues could make the business end of Super Rugby if they can somehow pull of an unlikely trio of wins against higher ranked opposition.
For head coach Umaga however, the 2016 campaign is just the beginning of ‘the bigger picture’ in Blues country. The signing of Sonny Bill Williams will entice others to head north. Beauden Barrett has been offered a contract according to sources, and it is likely that utility back Tim Nanai Williams will put pen to paper once he returns to New Zealand next year. Nanai-Williams has expressed interest in playing his third season in Japan’s Top League, but he is also eligible for Super Rugby. It’s believed that the Chiefs and Blues are currently locked into a contract dual to get his services in 2017.
The Blues haven’t won a Super Rugby title since 2003, and for Umaga to deliver a trophy back to Auckland, his team still needs a couple of additional signings. But what Umaga needs more than anything else is for his players to perform on a consistent level. Gladly, he has Jerome Kaino. (pictured) The powerful flanker and loyal Blues man will do all he can to make the playoffs.
The Blues get their Super Rugby campaign back under way with a must win clash against the Hurricanes this Saturday. The message from Umaga is clear; ‘win the next three games or we go away empty handed [again]’
“Main photo credit”