Super Rugby: Steven Luatua out to tame Brumbies in loose

Steven Luatua did his job well against the Hurricanes. Picture / Getty Images
Steven Luatua did his job well against the Hurricanes. Picture / Getty Images

Steven Luatua couldn't keep his hands off the ball against the Hurricanes last weekend.

He carried it 18 times, the most of any player on the Westpac Stadium pitch as the Blues went close but again failed to close out the game.

He knows against the Brumbies tonight that his role is likely to be different, though no less important. Whereas against Ardie Savea and company he turned back the years to his form of old when charging upfield for 63m, against Scott Fardy and the men from Canberra, Luatua is likely to concentrate more on a defensive role, focusing on slowing opposition ball.

"They're outstanding at the breakdown," Luatua said. "We've seen the numbers and they're effective at it. If we're going to have a chance to beat these guys, we have to slow the game down when they have the ball. Tacklers, and the guys hunting in, they've got to be really effective this week."

Any glow surrounding the performance of the Blues last weekend, and in particular their loose forward trio of Luatua, Kara Pryor and Jerome Kaino, has well and truly worn off.

The defeat ensured that, and besides, Luatua was reluctant to say he was returning to the levels of performance which earned him 14 tests in 2013 and 2014.

"I think I ticked the boxes in terms of doing my job," he said. "I got over the gain line quite a bit and carried strongly - tackled strongly as well. I was just trying to be effective in my role for the team.

"All the boys were firing on all cylinders so we just fed off each other at the weekend, especially the loose trio. We had a competition against the Hurricanes loose trio but also among ourselves. We have our little battles. Jerome got a runaway [try], Kara got a runaway, and I was trying to get one myself. I didn't quite get there but it was good fun.

"There was a lot of chat about their trio being quite effective around the park, so I think we did put more emphasis, a lot more drive against the Hurricanes to pick up our performances. We wanted to keep building. We didn't want the Crusaders game, where we were quite effective, to be a one-off. To back it up a few weeks later is a good sign."

With only two matches remaining in the Blues' season, the opportunities to enjoy themselves like they did at the Cake Tin are diminishing quickly. The expected wet conditions tonight, different game plan and smothering defence from Australia's top team are likely to limit the Blues' running game, but a dash upfield from Luatua, Pryor or Kaino would get the blood flowing for long-suffering Blues supporters and more besides.

"It definitely lifts you as a player when you see one of your teammates do something inspirational," Luatua said. "You want to add value. At the weekend, it was pretty hard to pick a player of the day ... there were a few of us that really stood up. It was a good team performance."

Asked whether 25-year-old Pryor was the quickest loose forward he had played alongside, Luatua said: "Blake [Gibson] is the fastest. He hasn't had many opportunities recently to show his wheels. I've played alongside Akira [Ioane, now with New Zealand's Rio sevens squad], too, and he's pretty fast as well."

- NZ Herald

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