Sir John Kirwan hints at changes to Blues
Sir John Kirwan has hinted at changes to his Blues side and says they are facing the biggest challenge of their exciting season when they host the Bulls at Eden park on Sunday.
Kirwan sent out the same team in the opening two rounds of Super Rugby to claim the major scalps of the Hurricanes and the Crusaders.
With a bye waiting after this weekend, the temptation is to get them to front again.
But Kirwan senses some changes can help keep his side's unbeaten record before they get a breather.
"It's really important that we understand this is a marathon ... making sure we keep the competition going in the team, making sure some of our little niggles don't turn into season-ending problems," Kirwan said.
"I really want this team to be a competitive 37 and there are a lot of guys in the squad that have worked really worked hard to put pressure on."
It seems hooker Quentin MacDonald might get a run. Big No 8 Peter Saili's leg injury will be monitored carefully and bruising openside Luke Braid has taken a bit of a beating over the first two weeks.
Lock Culum Retalick and impressive first-five Chris Noakes are others carrying niggles.
Kirwan knows the Bulls will be a new, physical challenge for his team, as well as a fresh test defending against the pin-point kicking game of Morne Steyn.
"The Bulls are going to throw really different stuff at us, I think this is the most difficult game from a philosophy point of view," Kirwan said.
"They have Morne Steyn, one of the best kickers in the game ... (so) our back three are going to have to be really alert.
"Their philosophy is to beat you up, at the ruck, at the tackle. They are going to kick high balls and they are going to be into us.
"There is going to be more pressure on us this week than we have had, so that's great."
There will also be increased pressure on the Blues' set piece which, after a near-perfect outing against the Hurricanes, showed a few creaks against the Crusaders.
The Blues had All Blacks scrum doctor Mike Cron helping them yesterday, offering some timely advice.
"We just need need to get some of those little things right," Kirwan said of the scrum and lineout work.
"But it (The Crusaders match) was a great test for us. We saw things that happen under pressure and we needed to see them because you only see them in a game."