Patrick McKendry

Patrick McKendry is a rugby writer for the Herald.

Rugby: Blues hope bridge not too far

Home side will trust they can transfer their unbeaten record at Eden Park over to North Harbour Stadium.

Keven Mealamu knows the Blues will have a formidable battle up front against the Sharks' forward pack. Photo / Getty Images
Keven Mealamu knows the Blues will have a formidable battle up front against the Sharks' forward pack. Photo / Getty Images

The Blues, in desperate need of competition points to keep their slim chance of a play-off place alive, will probably wish they could play Friday night's match against the Sharks at Eden Park rather than North Harbour Stadium.

The Durban-based team will have grown their support base among the North Shore's large South African population even further following their stunning 30-25 victory over the Crusaders in Christchurch, their first in the city and done with only 14 players for the majority of it.

The visitors will hope to have plenty of support, the home side will hope they can transfer their unbeaten record at Eden Park over the bridge.

Their record at Albany hasn't lately been great; neither has their record away from Eden Park. They haven't won a match away from their headquarters since the start of last year.

Veteran Blues hooker Keven Mealamu is well aware of the size of the challenge.

On Saturday, he arrived at the All Blacks training camp in Christchurch, switched on the television, and was pretty much transfixed as the Sharks turned the tables on the Crusaders.

A committed effort, which reaped three tries against the tactically and mentally deficient Crusaders, extended the Sharks' lead on the table.

Jake White's side looked like championship material and a different team to the one which suffered a shock loss to the Highlanders in Durban earlier in the season.

"They've got that real strong mentality to be able to play for most of the game with 14 players, and at a stage with 13 players, and I think that's why they are where they are on the table," Mealamu said. "We've got a big challenge ahead of us, particularly when you look at the threat their forward pack poses. We're looking forward to the challenge."

Asked if the victory was one of the more courageous he had seen over the years, he said: "I definitely think so. They had a couple of guys playing their 100th games as well [front rowers Jannie du Plessis and Tendai 'Beast' Mtawarira] so that probably added to what they were trying to achieve. I don't think they've been able to do that [win in Christchurch] ... so to be able to hang in there with their backs against the wall was a pretty good effort."

John Kirwan's team will be without Piri Weepu after he injured his groin playing club rugby in Wellington during the Blues' bye weekend.

- APNZ

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