Patrick McKendry is a rugby writer for the Herald.

Rugby: Blues get chance to break hoodoo

Tana Umaga's team have no right to feel overly-confident against struggling rivals.
Melani Nanai returns to the No14 jersey, the only change to the Blues backline. Photo / Getty Images
Melani Nanai returns to the No14 jersey, the only change to the Blues backline. Photo / Getty Images

The Blues, who have arrived in Johannesburg and will base themselves in South Africa's biggest city until moving to Port Elizabeth later in the week for their match against the Kings, have quickly reminded themselves about the need for a ruthless attitude this week.

Their struggling opponents, who are travelling back to the East Cape from Buenos Aires where they were thrashed by the Jaguares at the weekend, should represent the Blues' first away victory in two years, but Tana Umaga's team have no right to feel overly confident.

Apart from their shocking recent away record of the recent past, they have been dogged by inconsistency this season. They have won their two previous matches - against the Sharks and the Rebels - but are yet to put in a true 80-minute performance.

Asked if they were close to putting in a complete performance for perhaps the first time this season, forwards coach Glenn Moore said: "That's the $100 question. Parts of our game are getting better each week, it's just about getting more consistent each week.

"How far away that is I'm not sure, but I definitely think we're making progress. There's a real will within the team to win and play well so the forwards have been preparing well and hopefully the results will take care of themselves." As for potential complacency, he said: "It's something we've spoken about as soon as we got here. There's no place in this competition for complacency. We're really focused on the job at hand ... we've been really diligent about how we're preparing and what we're eating. There is an expectation that we'll go out there and put in our best performance."

The departure of right wing Rieko Ioane back to the national sevens team means Melani Nanai returns to the No14 jersey, the only change to the backline, with Ofa Tu'ungafasi replacing Charlie Faumuina at tighthead prop in the only change to the pack. Faumuina is likely to start next weekend's match against the Lions in Johannesburg.

Matt Moulds replaces Quentin MacDonald as reserve hooker, with Moore saying the 24-year-old deserved his opportunity to back up skipper James Parsons.

Also given a chance is referee Federico Anselmi, an Argentine who officiated at last year's World Cup but who has never been in charge of a Super Rugby match.

"We've obviously been trying to do a bit of research about him," Moore said. "That will make it interesting, but at the end of the day we have to make sure we're squeaky clean with how we apply ourselves in the game and in particular that tackle area and the scrum."

Lock Josh Bekhuis said two areas of focus this week would be the set piece and defence.

"We have to pick [the set piece] up another step because it's another level in South Africa in front of South African crowds," he said.

Midfielder George Moala, meanwhile, will play his 50th match for the Blues, a milestone which Moore said would be celebrated before and, hopefully, after. "It's an exciting time for George and his family ... he's an integral part of the team and integral part of our game strategy. We all know his abilities on the park - he's obviously good on his feet and a strong and blockbusting carrier and he's a really good team man."

- NZ Herald

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