Rugby: Piutau sad to see end of Blues' season

By Kris Shannon

The Blues' season ends tomorrow night as they take on the Brumbies. Photo / Getty Images
The Blues' season ends tomorrow night as they take on the Brumbies. Photo / Getty Images

Almost everyone associated with the Blues will be grateful for a merciful end to their season tomorrow night - but Charles Piutau is an exception.

The Blues' annus horribilis comes to a close in Canberra where another loss will set a new mark of mediocrity for a Super Rugby campaign.

Should the Brumbies do what is expected and, in the process, clinch the Australian conference, the Blues' return of three wins will be a record low for the three-time champions.

But at least it will be over. For the players, the anticipation for the ITM Cup must be at unprecedented levels. For the coaches, the preparation of CVs is probably requiring more attention than tomorrow night's gameplan.

For Piutau, however, the end of the season could hardly have come at a worse time.

The 20-year-old only made his debut for the franchise last weekend, scoring a try in their victory over the Force at Eden Park. He'll get a second run-out in Canberra, a second chance to press his claims for a contract next season, but then it's all over.

After the impressive performance, Blues fans would be forgiven for wondering where Piutau - the brother of Highlanders centre Siale - has been all season. But the fullback's delayed contribution was caused by an aptitude for sevens and a new rule which tasked him with a difficult decision at season's start.

Given the option of joining up with the New Zealand sevens team or the Blues' wider training group, Piutau chose the former.

"I knew going with the sevens would help me with my fitness and speed," he said. "And that level of playing - in front of big crowds in different tournaments and countries - helped me build my confidence. Coming into [the Blues] environment, I'm not as new to things."

Piutau could have experienced that environment sooner had he stayed, but he wasn't to know the Blues would eventually give so many second-stringers a run as injuries hit and their season stuttered.

"I was watching a bit of Super Rugby and seeing a lot of the wider training guys get opportunities. And I guess that thought did slip in my head - 'that could have been me'. But I chose sevens and I was happy with that decision."

Blues coach Pat Lam may have been less happy with but he was pleased Piutau took his opportunity when it finally arose.

"In reality, he could have had a lot more game time if he had stayed," Lam said. "But sevens has been great for him. He enjoyed the experience and now he's fully committed to 15s."

Piutau confirmed that commitment and said, having been born and raised in Mangere along with eight siblings, Auckland was where he wanted to make his living.

"At this age in my career, I would like to have a real crack at 15s. So I'll try to commit to that, give it everything and see how it goes.

"I live here in Auckland so it would be awesome to play rugby here."

That's just what he'll be doing when the ITM Cup gets underway in August, adding to his seven caps for Auckland while continuing his efforts to impress the Blues' brass. In Lam, he already has one fan.

"I see a long career for him at the Blues and a real future for him in the black jersey."

For now, Piutau is just determined to make the most of his end-of-season cameo.

"I've just started so I'm quite fresh. It's just the beginning and it's the last game, but I'm looking forward to it."

- APNZ

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