Long gone are the days of the Blues simply taking positive learnings out of their matches – wins are what matter now, according to flanker Dalton Papalii.
In years gone by, when the Blues regularly struggled to get wins on the board and both players and coaches were regularly under the pump, the usual comments would be floated about how the franchise was moving in the right direction. Now that the wins are considerably more plentiful, every loss is a lost opportunity – including last weekend’s game against the Crusaders.
“In that game, we did a lot of good things and people were patting us on the back about our attitude and effort,” Papalii told Stuff in the build-up to the Blues’ rematch with the Hurricanes. “But no one likes losing and the good thing about this team is that we’re not comfortable with having a good performance but losing. When we lose, it hurts and this Blues team is onto that now.
“People were congratulating us, but it was a loss. So we’ve flushed it and started a new week, it will be a different beast this week.”
That’s a markedly different attitude than from seasons gone by where the inaugural Super 12 champions have almost been required to defend their place in the competition, given their relative lack of success.
Now, there’s nothing left to justify. The Blues are the real deal – and they know it. Their newfound form couldn’t have come at a better time, either, because Super Rugby Aotearoa has been a step up from usual competition.
“I knew every week it was going to be like a test match,” Papalii said.
“In the normal Super Rugby competition, with teams from other countries, every game was hard, but we knew some games were going to be easier on the body. But in Super Rugby Aotearoa, every New Zealand team loves going out there and smashing into each other.
“We know it’s going to be a big game each weekend and that’s showing, the boys’ bodies are sore, but we’ve still got to go out there and do a job.”
While there’s no doubt that revenge against the Crusaders in their final round fixture will be occupying a small space at the back of every Blues players’ mind, Papalii and his teammates have three other battles to navigate before they have a shot at getting against the red and black machine.
“People are talking to us about the Crusaders game at the end of the season, but we’re not thinking about that at all,” said Papalii.
“We’ve got a Hurricanes team coming up this weekend that’s a different beast and we’ve got to tick that off to keep advancing.”
The Blues travel south to Wellington tonight with the chance to record a third victory of the year over their traditional rivals. The match kicks off at 7:05pm NZT.
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