Blues look to Nonu, Weepu
Brenden Nel - SuperSport
Johannesburg - The Blues will be hoping their trek to Africa, and the re-introduction to Vodacom Super Rugby of All Black powerhouse Ma’a Nonu will help them overcome their early season problems.
Pat Lam’s team arrived in South Africa minus two key players – flank Jerome Kaino and winger Rudi Wulf – as they set up base at MonteCasino for the next week in preparation for Saturday’s game against the Vodacom Bulls at Loftus Versfeld.
But Lam will be unhappy at his team’s performance in going down so easily to the Chiefs, and losing two stars en route to Johannesburg hasn’t helped much.
The team has been lambasted back home – the New Zealand Herald calling their performance “the worst since they last won the Super Rugby title in 2003” and with 32 missed tackles in the game, there have already been calls for Lam’s head as coach, even though it is just round two of the season.
Nonu may be hastened back into action this week against the Bulls and you can also expect a quicker return for All Black Piri Weepu as well, after a double stint on the bench for his new team.
Lam will be looking to the team’s character to rectify their wrongs on the tour of South Africa, knowing that unless there is a dramatic shift in focus and attitude, they could return home with four losses from four, hardly the start to the competition the team would have wanted.
"Certainly two losses are not good and there are things we have to sort out,” Lam told NZ media.
"It's now time to show the character of the team and getting away is a chance for us to do that. It's not daunting, [to play the Bulls and Stormers] what it is is a challenge for us as a group. For us we'll regroup, get away to Africa and obviously take the lesson and move on. It's not the way you start it's the way you come back that makes a difference."
The Bulls never played the Blues last season under the new conference rules, and two seasons ago, the Blues made a pre-game meal of the Bulls maul and managed to stop them and inflict a big loss on the eventual champions on their tour.
But the last time the Blues came to Loftus, they lost 59-26 in an entertaining game which saw the Bulls beat them for physicality and pace .
Either way, the Blues know they are up against it, and their backlash plans may be tougher now that the Bulls are walking tall from their big win over the Cheetahs.
They will hope some complacency sets in, and that, coupled with a big comeback performance to shake off the Chiefs debacle, is what Lam is planning to keep the wolves at bay in the next few weeks.