McAlister out, but Blues upbeat

The Blues won in Perth and flew the width of Australia to Sydney to wait and see what happened in South Africa. As a result of what happened they are to return to South Africa and do so without impressive Luke McAlister to face the table-topping Sharks in the semi-final.

In Perth on Friday McAlister made an impressive return from his cheekbone injury but strained a hamstring and will keep on going home to New Zealand. The rest, on the threshold of home, will turn and trudge back to Durban to face the Sharks who beat them in Auckland earlier in the Super 14.

The Blues hope that the muscular five-eighth will be ready for a final should they make the final.

They have the physical and psychological hill to get over – going back, flying for 14 hours and returning to the country which knocked them from their comfortable position to three successive defeats.

But, despite the circumstances, the Blues management are upbeat and confident they can pull off the win.

“There is a huge buzz in the team now and the players have not been in this situation for quite some time,” coach David Nucifora said.

“We will focus this week on what is a whole new competition now that creates a life of it’s own over the next fortnight.”

Meanwhile assistant coach Joe Schmidt told the New Zealand Press Association (NZPA) that having to undertake another 14-hour flight was not ideal preparation, but it was also “just part of the job”.

“The players are reasonably upbeat,” he said.

“It’s probably not great timing for us having been on the road for the past three weeks and being half-way home.

“But it’s the first time we’ve finished in the top four for a while and we want to give it our best shot, so there’s more positives than negatives.”

Schmidt believes that whilst they lost to the Sharks during the league phases, they can take heart from the manner of the defeat.

“The Sharks played pretty well that night, but we also felt they didn’t have to work too hard to create the tries they got,” he said.

“A couple of the calls went their way for the first two and the one in the second half was a charge down. I’m not sure we will go too far away from how we tried to played through the season.”


365 Digital

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