Blues plans to make amends against Bulls

2012-03-09 10:02

On the back of two consecutive losses to fellow New Zealand franchises, the Blues will have to stand up to the challenge of a physical Bulls team in Pretoria tomorrow.

“The physicality will be there. I think obviously with the altitude the high balls will come, and that is the rugby you face when you come here (in Pretoria),” said Pat Lam, coach of the Auckland-based franchise.

“The big thing with the continuity of the coaches (at the Bulls), although some of the personnel have changed, is that the style of rugby is still very similar. They really bring it to you and we have to stand up to the challenge of that.”

The Blues lost their opening Super Rugby encounter against the Crusaders by 19-18 and were overwhelmed 29-14 by the Chiefs last weekend.

Lam was also forced to make eight changes to the side due to unavailability and injury.

Despite the wet and cloudy reception, the Blues received a timely silver lining with the availability of All Black stalwart Ma’a Nonu, who will debut for the side after a stint with Japanese club, the Rico Black Rams.

World Cup-winning scrumhalf Piri Weepu will also receive his first start for the Blues after he came on off the bench in the first two matches of the competition.

While the injury to wing Rudi Wulf was a setback to the Blues, they will be boosted by the return of Rene Ranger to the left wing.

“On the back of losing Jerome Kaino, Rudi Wulf, Isaia Toeava and Michael Hobbs, to have that experience come in is a boost for the team, but ultimately it is us as a team performing well,” said Lam.

“We’ve had only nine fit backs, we’ve flown over Hadley Parkes, he arrived last night. As far as the forwards goes, it is just making sure we have the balance through the 22 (man squad).

“It is still only round two and that is just the way it is in New Zealand, we are very passionate particularly in Auckland so we understand that and we know we have a big challenge this weekend to get a win.”

Blues skipper Keven Mealamu said the team had some adversity on their hands, losing players of the calibre of Jerome Kaino but that it was an opportunity to pull together.

“The hunger is always there, and it is even more because of the way we started, we have no-one else to blame but ourselves, we need to make sure we put out a good performance over the weekend,” said Mealamu.

The veteran of 137 Super Rugby matches said, while the Bulls may have made minor changes to their game plan, he did not expect any surprises from them.

“When you watch the Bulls play, nothing much changes from their game plan. I know there will always be subtle things in their game plan, but they are always a physical team to play against,” he said.

“They’ve got a great kicking game and their forwards complement their backs so well.

“They are a team that’s able to score from long range, whether it be from the boot or from a driven line-out.
(So) for us it is about playing smart, making sure we really look after the ball so that we can build the pressure there.”

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