This Friday night the Blues rugby team will face-down the Brumbies in another trans-Tasman rugby battle. It is the opening match of Round 16 of the Super Rugby competition. many teams are vying for the title, but unfortunately that does not include the Auckland team. The best they can hope for; as much as pride, is that the Blues Super Rugby Team can play a ‘Spoiler Role’ to help other New Zealand franchise teams.
Nine matches makeup the weekends action, and teams like the Brumbies have much to play for. The fact the Blues do not is much to the consternation of fans. They have the talent, have the resources but again have failed to reach the latter stages. In that sense, they now play for pride and in that way, could assist fellow teams like the Hurricanes and Highlanders.
Competition points at a premium
The Brumbies sit on 39 points. they can make a maximum of 49 points and need the win tonight with a bonus point to assure their place. Similar stories for the Waratahs, the nearest Australian competition. Whichever of these two can claim the most points will earn the single Australian conference place. So second place is not a consideration. The kiwi sides have the points advantage and practically will each be hoping the ‘spoiler role’ plays out tonight at Eden Park.
But it is not all hedging on the points. The challenge from the Blues is still a refuted issue. They are no longer running hot-or-cold, so the consistency is there. They are just not completing the matches; as in the last match result 37-27 against the Hurricanes. So close to victory, it is a common story but with six wins, Brumbie fans will need to ‘hold their breath’. 80 minutes is a long time in sport, so look for individual brilliance to possibly turn the game.
This week, Ihaia West re-signed with the Blues for another 12 months. The Hawke’s Bay pivot has developed further and is looking the wiser head in the backline. A game breaker, with his distribution and sometimes ‘unknown quality’. they are just not sure if he will pull off that miracle kick or fabulous pass. Still questioned on his place-kicking, he has improved and will look all the more better if a certain Sonny Bill Williams were in play tonight.
He will line-up opposite Christian Lealiifano, the ‘kingpin’ of the Brumbies side. In combination with Matt Toomua and now Tomas Cubelli, the visitors may shade the Blues tonight. If they can combat the young stars from Auckland, that area will be key.
Kicking is essential. Three points is as important and a five point try, and you cannot win without points on the board. Look for penalties awarded to be taken unless they are within striking distance. And in 2016, the new rule of the match not ending on a penalty means the final act of the game maybe a sideline kick-option. The Blues have won a game and then lost on that option. Crucially for them, they can be more freewilled tonight, whereas the opposition must protect a victory at all cost. Lose this one, and the other teams can put a division that could be very hard to makeup in one last round next week.
A good record against Australian teams
The Blues hold a good record at home against Australian sides. 12 wins out of the last 14 games–it continues the ‘hoodoo’ that the All Blacks hold too. Undefeated at Eden Park, for a time this ground seemed like a daunting prospect. That record dropped away over the last few years, but even John Kirwan has a winning record against the ‘Aussies’.
So the Brumbies have many steps to climb before a couple of points can be gained. They will need to jump over the Blues to likely gain a bonus point, but they will need to crawl before the can leapt. Scrums need to be set. Lineouts won and men like Josh Bekhuis will challenge in the air. The breakdown needs to be protected, and Jerome Kaino still has the shoulders to move a Brumby player (or two) His battle against Scott Fardy will be the one to ‘sit up and watch’.
— Brumbies (@BrumbiesRugby) July 5, 2016
High-kicks need to be claimed, and their back three are quite inexperienced. Could that be a weakness that the Blues exploit? It would make sense with the slippery ball expected after two days of rain in Auckland. Play to the conditions, play the man. If they do that, then a good record can be another positive to build on in 2017.
Blues Super Rugby Team can play a ‘Spoiler Role’
In professional sport, you have to play competitor more than ‘compatriot’. Teams don’t often consider their opposition conference teams when it comes to the qualifying stages–but it can. In major leagues around the league, the ‘gamesmanship’ of sport often is below the surface. In American Sport it can play a big part, and this article only touches on the implications in modern sport.
Not an endorsement either, as in this case you are not ‘dropping results’. The Blues have a lot to play for, so the benefit outweighs any psychological manoeuvring. Stephen Larkin will hope his team can determine their own destiny. A win for either side will promote the team dynamic–the Blues will also appear to play the ‘spoiler role’. The Brumbies will advance their objectives.
Their are good odds to say the visitors should walk away with a victory, but pride is crucial in sport. Kaino, West and the other Blues players will hold out hope of retaining a good record. The bonus for the ‘Canes and ‘Landers is, more chances to qualify. That could be a win-win situation for New Zealand Rugby.
And the fans will leave Eden park happy too, if their men prevail.