Patrick McKendry is a rugby writer for the Herald.

Rugby: Potential for Blues to spoil Aussie chances

The Blues have two weeks left in their season. Photo / Getty
The Blues have two weeks left in their season. Photo / Getty

The Blues' playoffs hopes are officially over, but their expectations of two more high performances are not, so - starting with the Brumbies at Eden Park on Friday - they are determined to go from contenders to spoilers.

Defeat for the Brumbies will harm the playoff chances of the men from Canberra.
Currently fourth, the leading Australian team could tumble out of the top eight should they fail to get anything from the match.

And following them the week after will be the Waratahs, the second best Aussie team who have a more tenuous grip on the ladder than their compatriots - they are currently eighth overall - and will head to Eden Park after their potentially high-octane match against the Hurricanes in Sydney on Saturday.

Moreover, two victories from the Blues could help New Zealand's chances given the Chiefs, Crusaders, Hurricanes and Highlanders are all currently in the top eight.

The Brumbies will travel with high hopes following their 43-24 victory over the Reds but should be well aware of the threat posed by the Blues playing as well as they have all season. Their 37-27 defeat to the Hurricanes featured standout performances from most of their players, all of whom are keen to reach those heights again, and this time at home.

Before the June international break they had the Crusaders under pressure for the majority of the match, only to let it slip 26-21.

"We believe we've got a lot to play for. The boys are certainly up for it," assistant coach Glenn Moore said.

"Our focus all year has been on making sure we perform. We believe we've made good progress and particularly in the last two games."

Asked about their potential to have a big say in how the Australian conference finishes, forwards coach Moore said: "We haven't really talked about that. We've tried to keep the focus about us and playing well and performing well for hopefully a full 80 minutes.

"We definitely want to finish well. Our fan base and sponsors are really important to us and we want to finish the year on a really good note."

Prop Charlie Faumuina (knee) and midfielder George Moala (elbow) are again unavailable following their efforts in the test against Wales in Dunedin, but fullback Melani Nanai and midfielders Piers Francis and Male Sa'u have all be cleared after suffering knocks in Wellington.

And although openside flanker Blake Gibson, outstanding earlier this season, returned for the Blues off the reserves bench at the Cake Tin following his recovery from a thumb injury, Kara Pryor keeps the No7 jersey.

Pryor displayed his express pace in scoring a try against the Hurricanes and his form dictates that Gibson remains on the bench.

"There's real competition for that spot and having competition brings out the best in everyone," Moore said. "I thought last week Kara was sensational. As we all know Kara has a real turn of pace and if he gets in the clearly he can be a handful, but he's been particularly good at the breakdown area as well and he deserves his spot this week."

Lock Josh Bekhuis has been braketed with Scott Scrafton, but came through today's training and is expected to start.

The Blues team to play the Brumbies at Eden Park on Friday, kick-off 7.35pm is:
Melani Nanai, Matt Duffie, Male Sa'u/Matt Vaega, Piers Francis, Tevita Li, Ihaia West, Bryn Hall, Steven Luatua, Kara Pryor, Jerome Kaino, Josh Bekhuis/Scott Scrafton, Patrick Tuipulotu, Ofa Tu'ungafasi, James Parsons (c), Sam Prattley.

Reserves: Quentin MacDonald, Nic Mayhew, Sione Mafileo, Gerard Cowley-Tuioti, Blake Gibson, Billy Guyton, Matt Vaega/Michael Little, Lolagi Visinia.

- NZ Herald

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