14 May

Be thankful for what you've got
by Rob Wallace
14 May 2002

The Blues came to Canberra with a big task, and they had a good crack at it, but were never able to exert enough forward pressure, nor break the defence, to obtain the win they needed. It was a better performance from the Brumbies after their mid-season slump and gives them a semi-final match-up against the Warratahs where they will fancy their chances after the Tahs dire performance against the Crusaders.

The highlight of the Blues game was an outstanding individual try from Samiu Vahafolau who was starting his first game of the season. Starting just outside his 22 he burst through collecting a loose ball, sprinted down the sideline, chipped the defence, recovered and scored a great try. Sadly it was not enough, and although the Blues led at halftime, the Brumbies upped the pace in the second half to edge into the lead, and then as the Blues became more desperate, they ran in 3 more tries to deservedly win.

The highlight of the weekend was the sublime performance from the Crusaders as they annihilated the Warratahs in an awesome display of power and skill. As for the Warratahs, well they didn’t really turn up to play, and you give the Crusaders leeway at your peril.

For what is in reality a limited side, the Warratahs have done very well this season. They have been well coached, and played with speed and skill, to surprise most pundits with their results. They’ve probably been found out a little at the tough end of the season but a semi-final win over the Brumbies would cap a great season.

This season has raised as many questions for the Blues as it has answered, and most of them are how to combine 3 unions into a top four S12 team. I don’t think there’s any doubt that having a single NPC team per franchise (as Canterbury, and in reality also Otago, do) is a big help in terms of continuity and playing style, and it helps to retain a top squad of 26 players.

However, the Blues do get to choose from a huge pool of players, yet seem unable to build the talent they need. Having the benefit of (what seem) 2 talented coaches this year, and improving a little, to sixth, has provided a starting point but the Blues need to begin organising/identifying a pool of 30-36 top players right now and spreading them between the 3 Unions, and probably running some training or planning sessions during this year to prepare for next year. The retention of Fox and Sloane will provide some continuity, and shortfall areas, like the midfield and loose forwards, need to be targeted by introducing some of the talented youngsters around, or judicious recruiting.

Without a coordinated plan within the Blues region, it’s hard to see them playing in the S12 final within the next few years.

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