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‘It’s a graveyard for Aussie teams’: Blues brace for Brumbies’ ‘real test’

By Finn Morton
Hoskins Sotutu of the Blues is tackled during the round two Super Rugby Pacific match between Blues and ACT Brumbies at AAMI Park, on March 05, 2023, in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Daniel Pockett/Getty Images)

In a battle between two top-three teams in Super Rugby Pacific, Saturday’s blockbuster between the Blues and Brumbies looms as a “good test” for both teams less than two months out from the playoffs.

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Auckland’s Eden Park will host a highly-anticipated mid-season clash between two great Trans-Tasman foes with both the Blues and Brumbies currently equal on 27 competition points.

Both teams have only lost one match from their seven starts so far, but another defeat could prove costly as the race for a top-two finish and possible home semi-final continues to heat up.

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Captain Ryan Lonergan returns to an otherwise relatively settled Brumbies outfit who are looking to beat the Blues in Auckland for the first time in more than 10 years. The Brums broke a similar losing streak away to the Highlanders in Dunedin earlier this season.

Without first five Stephen Perofeta or All Blacks halfback Finlay Christie, the Blues will have their work cut out for them as they look to prove to the competition that they are indeed one of the teams to beat at this stage of the season.

“This is a real test for both sides. ‘Let’s see where we’re at’, that’s what this game is. Let’s see where we’re at right now in this competition,” former Wallaby Mat Rogers said on Stan Sports’ The Night Before Gameday.

“We’ve got seven rounds to go. It’s tough to maintain that intensity for seven weeks into finals and then to taking out the premiership.

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“So, this is a good test to see where they’re at.

“Of course you want to play well but you want to be at your best in seven weeks’ time when the finals start. They’re both building but they’ve both been playing great rugby.

Head-to-Head

Last 5 Meetings

Wins
4
Draws
0
Wins
1
Average Points scored
29
16
First try wins
40%
Home team wins
60%

“Eden Park, oh geese, it’s a graveyard for Aussie teams.”

Team captain Patrick Tuipulotu and World Rugby’s 2023 Breakthrough Player of the Year Mark Tele’a have been named to return for the Blues after missing the win over the Western Force.

Coach Vern Cotter has made four changes to the starting side with Marcel Renata and Bryce Heem also joining the run-on side.

The Blues’ line-up packs plenty of punch, including the all-star backrow trio of Akira Ioane, Dalton Papali’i and in-form Hoskins Sotutu. Caleb Clarke and Rieko Ioane will take the field a threatening backline.

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“We need to go above and beyond that, no disrespect to the Force, but we’re coming up against a set piece-oriented Brumbies who are playing really well,” captain Tuipulotu said, as reported by Newshub.

“This is pretty much our test match.

“As we come up against these top teams we’ll really gauge where we’re at,” he added.

The Brumbies have made three changes to their First XV. Cadeyrn Neville comes in at lock, Jahrome Brown at opening flanker, and captain Ryan Lonergan at halfback.

But for the most part, this is a very consistent Brumbies outfit. Coach Stephen Larkham has selected the same front-row, and Noah Lolesio will steer the team around the park as the first-choice fly-half once again.

While the Blues are widely considered the favourites, the Brumbies will be full of belief as they look to shock the Super Rugby Pacific competition in Auckland.

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