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Former All Black Ian Jones answers your Super 15 questions

Ask Kamo: Punt on Benji a pretty big gamble for Blues

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The Herald puts three questions to Ian Jones ahead of the first round of the playoffs

Benji Marshall. Photo / Getty Images
Benji Marshall. Photo / Getty Images

Q: Even if Benji Marshall takes a considerable pay cut from the A$700,000 per season he reportedly turned down at the Tigers, do you think he represents good value for the Blues?

I'm happy to be proven wrong on this one, but I can't see any value in Benji Marshall going to the Blues. Sure, there will initially be a curiosity factor, meaning more bums on seats, which will please the new owner, and Benji will provide fantastic PR, but is that what the Blues are about?

No, surely they are a committed, established, hard-working rugby team that sees winning as the best form of entertainment and providing a pathway for our local talent to "live their dream" as the best PR money can buy. No one can deny his ability on the field - he is a world-class athlete - but every time we take a punt on an unknown we close the door on our future and that's a pretty big gamble to take.

Q: If things go according to seeding, it looks like the Crusaders will travel to the Chiefs in a repeat of last year's semifinal.

Given the southerners dismantled the Chiefs recently, would they start favourites?

No. The Chiefs as the defending champions and with a better win-loss record than the Crusaders in 2013 have earned the right to be classed as the favourites going into that semifinal (providing the Crusaders make it). While the loss in Christchurch was comprehensive, it wasn't a confidence killer as this Chiefs team is honest and smart and will take the lessons learned from that defeat and will put them into practice next time they meet.

Those lessons are: winning the contact, getting more numbers at the breakdown past the ball and better ball security.

Home advantage can't be underestimated in this competition and the 16th-man effect is a factor at a sold-out Waikato Stadium.

A large number of this Chiefs team also have past history of losing to the Crusaders in round-robin play, then beating them in the playoffs, so the match won't hold any fears like it might once have.

The Chiefs are the favourites and it's a tag they should be proud to hold.

Q: Can you see anybody stopping the Bulls before the final?

No. The Bulls are unbeaten at home this year and I can't see that changing.

Even back when the Bulls weren't going so good, their home record was impressive and gets even better against New Zealand and Australian sides. Loftus Versfeld is a fortress and the epitome of home advantage.

Unfortunately for them, they may not play the final at home, which drastically alters their chance of a fourth Super rugby title.

In the 17 finals played so far, 14 have been won by the home side and only once, back in 2000, has it been won by a team from outside the country where the game was played - when the Crusaders won 20-19 in Canberra. That puts into perspective how important finishing at the top of the round-robin table is and why the semifinals are the more intense, closely fought contests.

- NZ Herald

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