Braid aims for clinical game vs Canterbury

HEADING OFFSHORE: Daniel Braid has signed with English club Sale.
HEADING OFFSHORE: Daniel Braid has signed with English club Sale.

Auckland flanker Daniel Braid got a bit emotional for last week's semifinal. This week, he says, is all about getting clinical.

Braid will play his 100th game for Auckland in Saturday's national provincial premiership final against Canterbury in Christchurch and the 31-year-old believes a potential fairytale occasion is on the cards.

The Auckland skipper doesn't know if he'll play for the union again - he was curt yesterday when asked, and his coach confirmed he was as yet "unsigned" for next year - but appreciates the fact that Saturday night's 33-22 victory in Wellington at least allowed him to bring up the ton on an auspicious occasion.

"With the uncertainty of not knowing whether I was going to get there, I got a little bit emotional after the game [in Wellington]," said Braid yesterday.

"It's good to get that emotion out of the way so I can focus on winning a championship at the weekend."

Braid firmly believes that this young Auckland side can upset the in-form Red and Blacks.

He, Ali Williams, Tom McCartney and Charlie Faumuina are the only survivors from the 2007 squad who were the last outfit not named Canterbury to win the title - though Braid and McCartney were the only ones to play in the final.

"These guys have won four in row and they're the dominant side in New Zealand," said the Auckland skipper.

"But we were the last team to win the championship before them, and I think it's time someone knocked them off their perch.

"It will be tough. They've scored a lot of points in the last month and they're playing outstanding rugby, with a style that suits their players.

"But it is a final and hopefully with the pressure there we can really take it to them. We saw what Taranaki did ...we'll take what we did in Wellington with the ability to come back when we were down and back ourselves to win."

Auckland coach Wayne Pivac confirmed he won't be picking the available Piri Weepu in a decision all about "putting the team first". That same philosophy, though, will see Charlie Faumuina added to the front-row mix.

Pivac said a fit-again Ali Williams was set to return after back problems ruled him out of the semi and reckoned motivation levels were high among his side..

"We're still smarting from round two when they beat us convincingly down there. We'd hoped to play them again because we know we're a better team than that.

"I respect what they're doing. They're a very, very good side and they've taken it up another level. Certainly their record speaks for itself and they're the benchmark at the moment. But we're trying to close the gap.

"We've made big inroads this year. 

"I think we're a couple of years away from our peak and Canterbury is right in the middle of a purple patch. It will be a great effort to go down there and win the thing... it's going to be a big mountain to climb"

But Pivac conceded Taranaki's performance in regulation time last week gave them some heart, as did their own effort in overturning a 22-14 deficit in the capital.

"We know how Canterbury play the game and we're going to have to work very hard on defence.

"In Wellington in the first half we took a lot of petrol out of their tank the way we took them on. Certainly defence is a major focus for the playoffs."

It will need to be if Auckland have any hope of celebrating Braid's 100th in style. 

Fairfax Media