Super Rugby 2013 Preview 2: The Blues

bluesEven though they haven’t been able to lift the Super Rugby trophy since 2003, the Blues have always been a force to be reckoned with. They were semi-finalists in 2011, but then followed that up with a disastrous season in 2012, only managing to win four of 16 games and finishing in 12th place overall.

Frustration amongst the fans grew as they recorded seven consecutive losses and later also suffered the largest defeat in the club’s history. This eventually resulted in the release of head coach Pat Lam and immediate introduction of his replacement, Sir John Kirwin. I must just mention this as I find it very interesting – JK was the Auckland Blues’ assistant coach in 2001, the year they technically had their worst season by finishing 11th in the Super 12. Not at all a comforting thought in my opinion.

Many other changes were made to the coaching staff, with the biggest news probably being the appointment of former All Black coach and World Cup Winner, Sir Graham Henry, as technical advisor.

When the 2013 training squad was announced, it was apparent that even more heads had rolled and less than a handful of relatively recognized names had been added. Stars like Ma’a Nonu, Tony Woodcock, Lachie Munro, Alby Mathewson and quite a few more chose to move to other Super Rugby franchises and clubs around the world.

With the addition of guys like Quentin MacDonald, Chris Noakes and Jackson Willison, the team actually looks pretty good on paper, especially since they still have a number of experienced game-changing campaigners in their midst.

I am happy to report that Piri Weepu will start his second season at the Blues in much better shape. The dynamic halfback looks fit and lean, with an air about him that says he’s going to be back with a bang.

Weepu wasn’t the only one who had put in the extra yards during the off-season. Livewire Rene Ranger came back fitter, faster and stronger than ever; determined to make the number 13 jersey his own. The 26-year old now finds himself among the veterans in this inexperienced side and he will be called upon to mentor the youngsters around him.

The appointment of Ali Williams as captain was quite baffling to me. Apart from his bad run with injuries being a concern, I’ve always felt that he lacked the required discipline to be a leader. To me it seems that the management merely picked the guy with the most experience to lead the team after Kevin Mealamu relinquished the captaincy. I personally would have liked to see Luke Braid return as skipper since he kept on leading by example last year even when everyone around him fell apart.

Sir John Kirwin said that the Blues are going to be bold, unique and diverse this year. I want to share his sentiments, but I think they are too young and inexperienced to achieve much during this building up phase.

Although they seem to have the potential, I fear they have a tough year ahead and my prediction for the team from Auckland is second from the bottom – they would have surely beat the Kings.

by Jackie Smit

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11 comments on “Super Rugby 2013 Preview 2: The Blues

  1. Of course you will be able to communicate with me Pieter. What do you think the Blues are gonna do this season? The entire point of these previews is for different people to voice different opinions. Nobody knows what any team will do before any match no matter how much data you have to go by. This is just my opinion, whether I’m right or wrong. How boring would it be if everybody agreed on everything. Don’t just knock what I say, say something intelligent to counter it. Wait until you see my other previews, I get the feeling we’re gonna exchange a lot of words in the months to come.

  2. I got worred when they dopped Gareth Anscombe but we will see, not very confident but surely they won’t be second from bottom but not having the Kings or Rebles to play twice doesn’t help.

    • Hi Chief, for me it kinda boiled down to being the team with the second most inexperienced players (being the Kings’ first season they obviously have the most) – not that I determined my predictions only on that stat. Having that unknown factor about you as a squad can be favorable, but this comp puts a lot of pressure on teams and individuals and I just don’t think they be up to it…yet. I’m very interested in seeing how they develop, though.

  3. I actually think the Blues will go alright this season. They lost by a small margin 41-35 to the Reds which boasted 10+ Wallabies whereas Blues played with 15+ uncapped super rugby players and none of there All Blacks. Yes it was a pre-season game but this scoreline shows that this Blues young squad looks promising

    • Hi Carl, firstly, this article was written well before that match. I totally agree with you that the young Blues had an exceptional match, however, the result didn’t really swing my opinion. To me it’s still gonna boil down to how well they’ll cope with pressure. Look at the Crusaders, even they struggle when put in tight situations without McCaw. They are now in a great position to build up to the fearsome team they used to be.

  4. And so the Blues surprised some of us, including the Hurricanes, aplenty! The big question is, will they be able to keep it up? Congrats to the Blues for opening their Super Rugby campaign with a perfect start.

    • Both teams had rusty patches during the game but The Blues performed better. Yes the Blues are inexperienced but they showed that they should not be underestimated beating the Hurricanes well at there home. Awesome performances by blindside flanker Steven Luatua and Centre Francis Saili.