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What the Blues must do to save their season

By Campbell Burnes
Rieko Ioane at the Blues. (Photo by Anthony Au-Yeung/Getty Images)

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1. Stop worrying about the weather


All we heard about the Durban match was how freaking hot it was. This is nothing new for the city in February. It is summer, for God’s sake. The Blues trained through one of the hottest January months on record. Granted, last weekend’s defeat did see a slippery ball due to sweat, but last time I looked two sides contest a game of rugby. The temperature is due to hit 27 degrees in BA this weekend. Start hydrating now.

2. Tighten up the lineout

The Blues lost two on their own throw against the Sharks. So did the Sharks. But the Blues have no less than five lineout options, including Dalton Papalii and Akira Ioane, neither of whom were thrown up. Get it right. 

3. Give Rieko Ioane the ball

Rieko Ioane was criminally under-utilised against the Sharks, while Melani Nanai saw little ball in the first spell before sparking up in the second. Leave the All Blacks protocols to one side for the Jaguares. Maybe play Ioane at centre and get him the pill. 

4. Tell SBW to stop kicking the ball


He did it four times against the Sharks, can you believe? Only Otere Black kicked the ball more often (17 times). He did one cross-kick, where he should have used his left foot, which came off, but he looks like Frank Bunce when he puts boot to ball. Come to think of it, I cannot recall Bunce ever kicking the ball. Stick to your knitting, SBW. 

5. Get all the forwards to play like Tom Robinson

They call him ‘Little Red’ and he plays with fearless, some might say reckless, abandon, clattering into rucks and charging around the field. Norm Maxwell, if you will. He was the best Blues forward in Durban and has now racked up two quality 80-minute displays. 

6. Take your goal kicks on offer


The Blues turned down no less than six (penalty) shots at goal. They lost by 26-7. You do the maths. But they cannot afford to keep pressing for a try when their attack is stilted. I was going to write that it reminded me of the Xavier Rush days, when the former skipper would often seek a try before a tee, but they have played like that since 2004. 

7. Otere Black must either take the line on or kick like a mule

The No 10 was a mixture against the Sharks. His long pass to Tanielu Tele’a for the try was a thing of beauty but he threw an intercept pass and made other errors. It is not his natural game to take the ball to the line, a la Stephen Perofeta, and he relies on a dominant pack. But either play right up on the line or sink back into the pocket and kick the stuffing out of the ball like Jonny Wilkinson or Owen Farrell.

8. Come up with a strategy to stop the lineout drive

I don’t have answers to this one, because I have no idea how to legally stop a well-executed rolling maul, but the Crusaders targeted them here and the Sharks scored via Akker van der Merwe. 

9. Stop dropping the ball

Tele’a’s try was the 1000th by the franchise since 1996, just the fourth team to do so. But they have just four in two games in 2019 and are lacking patience and accuracy, not to mention just dropping the ball or throwing dusty passes. The backline looks out of sync on attack, and it does not help having three second-fives plus two halfbacks yet to click.

10. Just get the W

No matter how ugly it gets in BA, the Blues must find a way to win. Or the (Sun)wolves will gather.



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