The Lions are not underestimating the Blues despite the Kiwis having the worst defensive record in the competition.
Both sides find themselves in similar positions ahead of the match at Eden Park as injuries to key players, poor defensive records as well as two losses on the trot hamper their build-ups.
The Blues are coming off a bye but their previous couple of encounters weren’t inspiring as they were hammered 63-34 by the Chiefs and then fell to the Waratahs at home. Injuries have ruled out All Blacks Tony Woodcock and Ali Williams, while scrumhalf Taniela Moa may also not play due to disciplinary issues.
The Lions’ defence has also been woeful, but the Blues have conceded the most tries (29) in seven games, two more than their opponents this Saturday.
Lions coach Loffie Eloff is in expectant mood despite his team currently sitting 12th on the log.
‘That match really gave us confidence,’ Eloff told keo.co.za. ‘One New Zealand paper said that our performance was the best by any team in two years against the Chiefs in Hamilton.’
Eloff may be buoyed by his team’s first match on tour but also preferred to talk up the inconsistent Blues. As poor as the Aucklanders have been on occasions this year, they have also showed how dangerous they can be.
‘They are a difficult side and the bye would have recharged their batteries,’ said Eloff. ‘We are not going to underestimate them but it is important we aim for maximum points, then the New Zealand part of our tour will be a success.’
The Chiefs may be white hot while the Blues are conversely nowhere near top form, but Eloff says his team learnt how to approach the Kiwi sides.
‘The Chiefs are currently playing good rugby, but we showed how to play against them. If you allow these sides to run at you, they’ll all look good, but if you are physical and get in their face and attack them first they are also human,’ he said.
The Lions will be without captain Baywatch Grobbelaar and centre Doppies la Grange, but the omissions of Woodcock and Williams will rob the Blues of firepower at both set-pieces.
‘They are both very experienced so that will influence their preparation,’ said Eloff. ‘But there is depth in their squad and the youngsters will bring enthusiasm to the team.’
The Blues may not have been convincing throughout the campaign, but the Lions will have to learn how to close out tight games if they hope to cause an upset in Auckland on Friday.
By Grant Ball