Blues, Highlanders moving on different paths

DAVID LONG
Last updated 08:51 20/04/2012
Filo Paulo
PHOTOSPORT
Filo Paulo on playing the Highlanders tonight, "We've got to beat them up pretty much."

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The Highlanders head into tonight's Super Rugby match with the Blues as favourite, marking a big shift in form since February when the Blues convincingly beat them 29-12 in their final preseason game.

The Blues headed into the regular season with three preseason wins while the Highlanders had a trio of losses.

The Blues were set for a storming season while the Highlanders were set to suffer a sophomore slump under Jamie Joseph.

But those preseason presumptions couldn't have been more out of whack with what's happened.

The Highlanders have five wins and the Blues have won just one of their seven games.

Since Super Rugby began in 1996 there have been just two other times when a New Zealand side has started their campaign as badly as the Blues are experiencing; the Chiefs in 2003 and the Highlanders in 2008.

Both went on to win just two more games each. Then Highlanders coach Glenn Moore was able to keep his job after a dreadful campaign; Kevin Greene wasn't so fortunate with the Chiefs.

Lam looks to be heading down the same path as Greene unless there is a real turnaround - and there was the odd glimpse of how well this Blues team can play in their 23-29 loss to the Sharks last Friday.

However, most nice touches usually ended up with an error.

These mistakes are being caused by desperation to make something special happen rather than carelessness or not caring.

"It's not a bad thing in a way (to be desperate), but in a professional team you can't really do that," Blues lock Filo Paulo said.

"That's why we have to go back to basics, do the little offloading and even reloading to get that depth.

"Everything has been going good at training and we're all focused on our individual performances this week.

"We're not too focused about the outcomes; it's getting those little things right to make the team better."

The restarts were abysmal from the Blues last weekend and extra work has been put into this area.

A key for the Blues in getting an upset victory this weekend will be if they can cope with how the Highlanders approach the breakdown.

"We've got to be smart, if we see them throwing lots of players into the breakdown then we'll look for the spaces," said Paulo.

"The Highlanders have been going real good at the moment while we haven't.

"It will be a tough game but I am looking forward to it.

"We've got to be more physical up front, they've got a solid forward pack that will go hard all night and we haven't got to match them, we've got to go better.

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"We've got to beat them up pretty much."

The Blues versus Highlanders match kicks-off at Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin tonight at 7.35pm.

- Fairfax Media

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