Blues have a higher mountain to climb

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Lynn McConnell     09 Mar 2018     Getty Images

At the back of the minds of some members of the side will also be the 43-5 drubbing they suffered at Ellis Park when they last visited South Africa's rugby temple two years ago.

However, coach Tana Umaga says the travel issue – a 24-hour delay at Auckland due to aircraft issues and subsequent transfer problems – were just something the team had to cope with.

"We would have liked to have arrived on Sunday to give us a whole week like we would normally have at home. We didn't arrive until Monday night. It's no excuse, it's just something we have to suck up and handle," he said.

Umaga said the team had handled the situation as well as could be expected.

Having the experience of flanker Jerome Kaino and second five-eighths Sonny Bill Williams to play the Lions was a huge boost for the side which was well aware it hadn't performed well against the Chiefs last weekend.

"Those guys have been really good in terms of bringing experience and refocusing other players and just being here and really uniting the group. It's been really good having those guys back," he said.

Hooker James Parsons had been the obvious choice to take over the captaincy from the injured halfback Augustine Pulu, he had done the job before and he was playing well.

Umaga acknowledged that while he had previously questioned why he should move the best left wing in the world, Rieko Ioane, to the centres, he had done well when going into that role during games and had earned the right to start on this occasion.

"I go back on what I said, he was the best wing then for us and he's one of the best midfielders for us. He's done so well, we're giving him that spot," he said.

The direction for Williams and Ioane was to play within the team's structures, be who they are and to use their personalities and traits in the role they had been given while being confident in what they were doing.

Umaga said the selection of six forwards and two backs on the bench was a response not only to the type of game the Lions played, but also the altitude and the travel issues.

"They know what is coming, we've trained it, they know what we want to do so it is around execution. That's the big thing for us this week, it's around the execution of everything we do both on attack and defence," he said.

"We know where their strengths are, we know that they are a team with a lot of confidence and playing well and we need to get to that level.

"For us when we have some urgency and excitement we can do a lot of things and it's just around having that. We've got nothing to lose being over here, backs against the wall. We've got to come out and really take it to them.

"They're going to test our ball, our forwards and we think we've got a plan in place and again it is just around that execution," he said.