Forget the battle for the New Zealand conference's wooden spoon, TJ Perenara says his goal remains the Super Rugby playoffs.
With the Chiefs, Crusaders and Highlanders all flying high, the Blues' only chance of avoiding last place among the five Kiwi franchises is catching the Hurricanes.
Hence the chatter about rugby's mythical, yet dreaded, oak utensil.
"There's been no talk here about coming last in the New Zealand conference," Hurricanes halfback Perenara said. "Our mindset is we want to be playing in the playoffs this year, that's the goal. We have to win a few games, but that's obviously the goal.
"It's a very long competition; you get a couple of wins and you are back in the hunt. We still consider ourselves contenders for the title."
Perenara's youthful confidence is a refreshing change from the usual cliches about paying no attention to the points table.
While the Hurricanes have not discussed the playoffs as a troupe, every coach, player and team is presumably aiming for a top six finish.
In reality it will take a drastic change of fortunes for the Blues to avoid finishing behind their Kiwi counterparts.
On just 12 points, they have been scratched by the TAB as possible conference winners already and would need three wins and change just to catch the Hurricanes' current total of 25 points.
Perenara's goal of reaching the playoffs has better odds though; the Hurricanes are now out to $25 to win the conference.
One area where the Hurricanes are winning this season is in the stands, with total attendance at home matches against the Highlanders, Cheetahs (in New Plymouth) and Crusaders up 47 per cent when compared with the opening three matches of 2011. The 22,000-strong crowd at the last match against the Crusaders was the biggest since 2008 and with just shy of 12,000 tickets sold for the Blues match yesterday afternoon, the upward trend is set to continue.
Just 11,016 were at Westpac Stadium to watch the Hurricanes lose 17-11 to the Blues last season.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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