Search

show me:

Blues, Chiefs prepare to break Super Rugby drought

3 minute read

The Blues are Super Rugby title favourites but the Chiefs could spring a grand-final surprise to go with their last-four win over the league-leading Hurricanes.

New Super Rugby champions are set to be crowned for the first time in eight years, with the red-hot Blues hosting the resurgent Chiefs in the grand final in Auckland.

The two New Zealand outfits have never before squared off in the championship decider and, other than the COVID-impacted regional series in 2021, the Blues have not won a title since 2003.

For Saturday's rivals the Chiefs, silverware most recently arrived in 2013.

The Blues go into the sell-out clash as favourites, having finished the regular season in second place with 12 wins from 14 games.

They claimed bragging rights over the Chiefs earlier this month with a convincing 31-17 final-round win at Eden Park.

But the Chiefs bounced back with impressive victories over the Queensland Reds and minor premiers the Hurricanes to throw their hat back in their ring.

"The Blues have impressed with how they have gone about their work, establishing a harder edge under Vern (Cotter) whilst maintaining their ability to hurt you through their explosive backs," Chiefs coach Clayton McMillan said.

"I can't see them wavering from their willingness to kick long, pressure the ball and go to war through the middle of the park, so we at least know what's coming our way.

"We produced some good footy when it mattered and feel battle-hardened for a final.

"Our leaders have really stepped up, driven our preparation and led by example through their performances."

The Blues have been boosted by the surprise return from injury of captain Patrick Tuipulotu.

"He tested the knee on Monday in the gym, then on the grass yesterday," Blues coach Cotter said.

"He's pulled up well and has the all-clear from our medical team. He's a welcome addition to our pack; our talisman, lock and leader.

"There's a deep desire in this group to go the whole way but to do that we need to be clear in our thinking, disciplined and not let the occasion get the better of us."

The Blues will have to be on their best behaviour, with Damian McKenzie's kicking for the Chiefs a penalty-goal threat from just about anywhere on the park.

The All Blacks five-eighth dominates the competition's points-scoring leaderboard with 172 points - 22 more than ACT Brumbies No.10 Noah Lolesio in second place.

If the Chiefs triumph, they would break a title drought of their own: they have not tasted Super Rugby glory since a 27-22 win over the Brumbies 11 years ago.

They are not short on grand-final experience, though, having fallen to the Crusaders in a heartbreaking 25-20 defeat last year.

The Crusaders have failed to hoist the Super Rugby trophy aloft for the first time since 2016, following an abysmal season under debutant coach Rob Penney.

Also absent are any Australian teams, who have not featured in the grand final since the NSW Waratahs' 2014 win.

The Brumbies once again looked the likeliest of the Australian sides to go all the way but fell at the penultimate hurdle for the fourth season in a row, this time to the Blues.

What are you prepared to lose today? Set a deposit limit.

For free and confidential support call 1800 858 858 or visit www.gamblinghelponline.org.au