Brumbies wary of winless Blues in Super Rugby
WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — The second-place ACT Brumbies say complacency won’t be an issue when they face the last-place Blues in Auckland on Friday to start Super Rugby’s ninth round.
The Brumbies have five wins from seven matches and are 19 points and 13 places ahead of the Blues, who are winless after seven games and in the grip of their worst-ever season start.
Senior Brumbies players say that disparity in performance won’t count for much at Eden Park. They say the Blues have too many players of quality and experience to go much longer without a win, and fear they could be the team that allows the Blues to break a winning drought that stretches to nine matches, including the last two games of 2014.
The Blues showed signs of improvement in last week’s 23-16 loss to two-time champions the Chiefs when they failed to capitalize on extended periods of possession and territory.
“One of the things we’ve looked at is that they’ve got six out of their eight (starting forwards) who are All Blacks,” Brumbies prop Scott Sio said.
“If you look at them from one to 15 individually, they’re such a great team. It’s going to be a collective effort; they’ve got so much strike power in (No. 8) Jerome Kaino, (flanker) Steven Luatua, and Charles Piutau and Frank Halai out wide too.”
Back rower Jarrad Butler said the Brumbies would not make the mistake of taking the Blues lightly.
“Complacency isn’t an issue at all,” he said. “They’ve had a tough start but they haven’t lost a game by more than 12 points so they’ve been in everything.”
The top-ranked Hurricanes have their second bye of the season so the Brumbies have a chance to reduce the Wellington team’s seven-point lead atop the table.
The third-place Bulls, who host the 14th-place Queensland Reds in Pretoria on Saturday, will be without veteran lock Victor Matfield, who will undergo knee surgery and is expected to miss three weeks.
The Reds, struggling with only one win from seven matches, will be without Wallabies flyhalf Quade Cooper, who suffered a broken shoulder blade last weekend, and flanker Jake Schatz who has an injured elbow.
On Thursday, the Reds said lock Rob Simmons will play his first game of the season following his recovery from a shoulder injury. He replaces James Horwill, who is serving a one-week suspension for striking.
The sixth-place Crusaders face the fifth-place Highlanders on Saturday in a continuation of one of the New Zealand conference’s more intense rivalries. Both teams had big wins last weekend over South African opponents: the Crusaders by 52-10 over the Sharks in Durban and the Highlanders 39-21 over the Stormers in Dunedin.
Elsewhere Saturday, New South Wales plays the Stormers at Sydney, the Western Force host the South African-based Cheetahs and the Lions play the Sharks in an all-South African match at Johannesburg. The Chiefs and Melbourne join the Hurricanes with weekend byes.