Wynne Gray

Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

Rugby: Workaholic Saili takes his game to another level

Blues No8 Peter Saili has shown steady progress. Photo / Getty Images
Blues No8 Peter Saili has shown steady progress. Photo / Getty Images

Every rugby team needs workaholics, those men who tackle, mop up and do the dirty work.

This is the world of Blues No8 Peter Saili.

In previous seasons he was mentioned quite a lot and mostly for the wrong reasons as his game failed to lift. That seemed strange with former international loose forward Pat Lam in charge of the coaching group.

Something has changed this season though as Saili has gone past 50 games for the Blues and begun to show the proficiency he needed.

Statistics are open to interpretation but not this one about Saili.

He was in strong form once more against the Crusaders last week and made all 17 of his attempted tackles. It said much about his progress and everything about his technique and learning.

"It has been massive for me, sorting out a lot of things this season," he said.

"The coaches wanted me to grow each game. They had a chat with me and told me to do my job and let the others worry about theirs.

"They broke all the things down for me and gave me a great deal of help especially with my defence, getting in tighter, making more tackles and getting that work rate up."

The Blues have made a couple of tweaks to their side to meet the Brumbies tomorrow at Eden Park with All Black training group trialist Steven Luatua out with a sore neck and Francis Saili moving into midfield.

Coach John Kirwan was also quizzed about the refereeing outburst from his experienced sidekick Graham Henry which has got Sanzar in a serious tizzy.

Kirwan has delivered a series of emailed suggestions and thoughts to Sanzar refs boss Lyndon Bray about decisions last week against the Crusaders and was doing his best to downplay Henry's attack.

None of that will concern Saili who is concentrating on more business against the well-drilled Brumbies.

He, Luke Braid and Steven Luatua have been a strong Blues loose forward corps but that has been snapped with Luatua's neck injury.

At the start of the year Saili aggravated an Achilles tendon problem but that has been sorted and he has started all but the match against the Bulls.

"I have to do some work on it every day otherwise I will fall over but it is sorted, it is much better," he said.

So is Saili's play and that of younger brother Francis. The pair chat often about each other's play and how both can develop their fraternal progress.

Peter and an older brother used to deal to the smaller Francis in family rugby sorties and the elder two reckon that has developed their dexterity and sharpness in midfield.

The task for elder brother Peter has been to lead the forward pack and make sure the loose forwards are gelling with their tight five partners.

"This game will be something else because the Brumbies try to play a bit like the South Africans, they like to get territory and then suffocate you," he said.

"We made that mistake against the Crusaders where they fronted up and we did not get enough gain line for our backs to give them something to think about," he said. "We went okay for 60 minutes but this week it has to be more.

"That is where championship teams start winning in the last quarter. We have had a few lapses like the scrum against the Stormers and against the Crusaders, and the Brumbies will be looking to do something similar.

"They will probably kick a lot and we have to get back and help our back three and then get into the chase line too."

With the weather closing in, the Blues will have to be careful about their usual attacking ideas.

Every game is crucial and a result after last week's shutout will buoy the Blues in their continued quest for the playoffs.

Blues v Brumbies
Eden Park, 7.35pm tomorrow

Blues: Charles Piutau, Frank Halai, Rene Ranger, Francis Saili, George Moala, Chris Noakes, Piri Weepu, Peter Saili, Luke Braid, Brendon O'Connor, Ali Williams (C), Culum Retallick, A Ta'avao/S Prattley, Keven Mealamu, Tim Perry
Reserves: James Parsons, Prattley/Ofa Tu'ungafasi, Anthony Boric, Kane Barrett, Jamison Gibson-Park, Baden Kerr, Jackson Willison.

Brumbies: Jesse Mogg, Henry Speight, Tevita Kuridrani, C Lealiifano, Joseph Tomane, Matt Toomua, Nic White, Ben Mowen (C), Colby Faingaa, Peter Kimlin, Sam Carter, Scott Fardy, Ben Alexander, Stephen Moore, Scott Sio
Reserves: Siliva Siliva, Ruan Smith, Jordan Smiler, Fotu Auelua, Ian Prior, Robbie Coleman, Clyde Rathbone.

- NZ Herald

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