Smokin’ Joe looks to the legacy

As the chasing pack looks set to reel the Blues in on this year’s Super 14 points table, the ever-potent Auckland outfit would do well to draw inspiration from the legendary history of the franchise.

And that has been the driving force all along behind this year’s campaign, says legend-in-the-making Joe Rokocoko.

The paceman only played his first full game of the season last Saturday’s in his side’s devastating loss to the Stormers, but joe recounted the motivation behind the Troy Flavell-led Blues.

“At the outset of the tournament we had some training camps, during which some of the senior players showed us some footage of the Blues of old.

“The likes of Joeli Vidiri, Zinzan [Brooke] and Fitzy [Sean Fitzpatrick], they were all legends who passed down a Blues legacy to us.

“We saw how they played Blues rugby back in the day, and that is driving us to regain the respect for Blues rugby; to play rugby how the Blues are meant to play it.”

Rokocoko, who is still only 23 years old, has already racked up 39 Test caps, in which he has scored an incredible 35 tries. Rokocoko burst onto the scene in 2003, when the Blues, playing some scintillating rugby with Carlos Spencer calling the shots from fly-half, went from mid-table finishers the previous year to champions.

In a bid to regain that edge after some subsequent mediocrity, Joe says they turned to the inspiration of the past.

And it just may be that they will have to remember that when they head for Pretoria this Friday to take on the increasingly fearsome Bulls, who have something of a heritage themselves for which to play.

After a ponderous match last week, Rokocoko will quickly need to regain some top form.

“I haven’t had much game time this year, because of the reconditioning programme, but when the chance comes you have got to take it.

“There have been all sorts of benefits from the programme. Although I got injured straight afterwards, it definitely helped me recover quicker.”

Rokocoko is aware of the pressure on his side’s performance this weekend. He knows that all of the last couple of games have been absolutely vital.

“It’s do or die now.

“The other teams have caught up, and it is time for us to drop another gear.”

He re-affirms the respect New Zealand sides have for their old South African foes.

“Every South African team will come at you with their forward pack. The Sharks particularly showed how effectively that can be done when they beat us.

“We really will have to fight for the ball at contact time, and it is always tough with some of the big players there are in South Africa.

“A win in Africa is always a bonus, any side would agree on that, and we are desperate for a win to redeem ourselves.”

As for competition in the outside channels, the winger has been particularly impressed this year with the improvements made by the Sharks’ wings, citing specifically JP Pietersen.

“The Sharks wingers have really been going well, then you always have your year-to-year guys like the Habanas.”

As for looking ahead to the year of destiny for the World Cup-starved All Blacks, Rokocoko concludes that all that is needed now is focus upon the current job at hand – the Super 14.

“The World Cup is still a way off, and, at the end of the day, it really only comes down to how you play that one crucial game – the whole effort will just be reflected in that.

“And there are a lot of threats for the All Blacks.

“If you are part of the All Blacks then every other team is trying to pull you down; you have to always be better than the previous game.

“South Africa is sure to be fierce competition, already we have seen their improved strength in the Super 14.”

By Chris Waldburger 365 Digital 

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