S15 preview - Highlanders v Blues

Highlanders (File)
Highlanders (File)
If the pre-season warm-up matches are anything to go by, this one should go to the Highlanders. The Blues lost all three their preparation games away from home, conceding on average 38 points per hit out – that does not bode well for them. Things weren’t that much rosier for the Landers, losing both on the road after overcoming the Brumbies at home. They did however only concede half the amount of points the Blues which indicates a stronger defense.
Aaron Smith

Aaron Smith

Although fairly anonymous, it’s been reported that the Highlanders’ pack performed admirably and considering that they were up against the Brumbies, Crusaders and Waratahs, I wouldn’t write them off just yet. Their names might not yet be written in lights, but I’m sure they’ll get there sooner or later.

The anonymity mantra pretty much continues for the rest of the Otago squad, but that is good news. It means that they have chucked out the dead wood and will carry with them some elements of surprise. Whilst the forwards seem to have become stronger, the losses among the backs are a different story.

Hosea Gear’s departure is a big blow, take away Tamati Ellison and Kade Poki as well, and you’ve pretty much cut their striking power in half. Luckily they still have the two Smiths (Aaron and Ben) and everyone knows that you rather play with them than against them. They also managed to get rid serial karma killer, Ma’a Nonu, and they’ll hope that he’s taken his bad luck and tendancy to get carded with him to Auckland.

A large number of Kiwis are returning home from Japan and in terms of value, very few comes with a reputation bigger than that of Jerome Kaino. The feeling should be mutual when I say that a partnership between him, Luke Braid and Steven Luatua could be a lethal one for the Blues. Surprisingly enough Kaino’s not even in the match-day 23. Is he injured?
Ma'a Nonu

Ma’a Nonu

As for contracting Nonu, I must wonder whether coach Kirwan lost his mind with Rene Ranger leaving for France or if it’s a case of the All Black management doing a little bribing. I mean, how else were they going to select him for the national side if none of the Super Rugby teams wanted him?

Nevertheless, the Blues have a solid scrum and hardworking loosies whilst the backline consists of some strong and flight footed fellows. Guys like Frank Halai, Charles Piutau and Francis Saili only need a sniff of the line to get their blood pumping.

It’s a like for like situation which can only result in a try feast with an unlucky loser, or an error ridden display of desperation. Here’s to hoping for the former.

Highlanders by 3
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