Patrick McKendry is a rugby writer for the Herald.

Super Rugby: Blues set sights on spoiler role against Brumbies

Tevita Li of the Blues. Photo / Getty
Tevita Li of the Blues. Photo / Getty

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

Defeat for the Brumbies will harm the playoff chances of the men from Canberra. Now 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.

And two Blues wins could help New Zealand's chances given the Chiefs, Crusaders, Hurricanes and Highlanders are all in the top eight.

The Brumbies will travel with high hopes after their 43-24 defeat of 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 loss to the Hurricanes featured standout performances from most.

Before the June international break the Blues 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, he 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."

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Prop Charlie Faumuina (knee) and midfielder George Moala (elbow) are again unavailable but fullback Melani Nanai and midfielders Piers Francis and Male Sa'u have all been cleared after suffering knocks.

And although openside flanker Blake Gibson, outstanding earlier this season, returned for the Blues off the reserves bench at the Cake Tin after his recovery from a thumb injury, Kara Pryor keeps the No 7 jersey.

Lock Josh Bekhuis is bracketed with Scott Scrafton but came through training and is expected to start.

The team to play the Brumbies at Eden Park tomorrow at 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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