Blues come hunting for points
Brenden Nel - SuperSport
Johannesburg - There may be no Ma’a Nonu or Jerome Kaino on this trip to South Africa, but it doesn’t make the Blues squad that heads to Loftus Versfeld this week any less dangerous.
According to the supersport.com website, Sir John Kirwan’s team will arrive in Johannesburg knowing their two weeks on the Highveld are an ideal opportunity to pick up points away from home against two sides that haven’t hit their stride yet.
The Bulls this weekend may be coming off a win against the Lions, but they have shown themselves to be vulnerable in the opening three weeks of Vodacom Super Rugby.
And while the two veterans are at home recuperating and readying themselves for a return against the Toyota Cheetahs squad in three weeks’ time, the visitors will be just as dangerous as they showed in their sensational win over the Crusaders on Friday.
There may be recalls for All Blacks Keven Mealamu and Tony Woodcock to shore up the front row - both have been starting off the bench thus far in the competition, while South African audiences may well see League convert Benji Marshall get more game time on the tour after being held back thus far by Kirwan.
But either way the Blues are hunting for points to take back home and believe they can do it against the South African teams.
"We just need to tough it out," Kirwan told the New Zealand Herald before departure.
"If we could get back to the Cheetahs [at Eden Park on March 22] with 10 or 12 points after our Africa trip then you're in pretty good shape.
"This is one win, it's week two, it's a long competition. I need to have the courage to rest Braidy [captain Luke Braid] even if I need to because it's a high attrition rate.
"In Africa we need to keep making those changes - not a lot - but a couple of changes to keep the team fresh and always bubbling."
Captain Luke Braid said though that the Blues had to play with caution, as the games would be different to the New Zealand derbies.
"You have to change your mindset when you play the Africans, it's a completely different style," he said.
"Some of the boys, it's their first year in Super Rugby and they're going to go over to Africa and think 'this is completely to different to playing two New Zealand teams'.
"They need to go over there and adapt."
The Bulls are likely to keep their kicking-dominated style for the game, trying to force the Blues into mistakes, from which they hope to capitalise.