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Blues brace for physical Waratahs test

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Sportal.co.nz     21 Mar 2013     Getty Images

The surprise run of Sir John Kirwan's men came to a screeching halt when the mammoth pack from Loftus Versfeld barged through the gates of Eden Park to hand them their first defeat two weeks ago.

It was the first time many of the young Blues, including six debutants, had been pitted against such brutal force, and won't be blamed for feeling a little rattled by the experience.

Kirwan believes a similar challenge awaits them in the form of a wounded Waratahs side desperate to defend its home turf this weekend.

"The Waratahs are really physical; they want to play a physical game.
They're probably the most physical of the Australian sides," said Kirwan.

"It's going to be a really physical battle, and we need to win that battle."

Kirwan has 'learned' from certain mistakes which contributed to their previous loss and will revert to the starting line-up that achieved opening wins over the Hurricanes and Crusaders.

Tight forwards James Parsons, Tom McCartney and Culum Retallick will bolster the pack while Peter Saili, Chris Noakes and George Moala used last week's bye to recover from niggling injuries.

All Black lock Anthony Boric has also been confirmed to return to the bench after spending a year out of the game with a neck injury.

The hope is that the introduction of experienced personnel will enhance the execution of a game plan which Kirwan admitted 'did not work' when his makeshift XV attempted to use it against the Bulls.

"We've refined it [the plan] and obviously taken a look at everything over the break. We just need to make sure that we tick all the right technical things when we play," added Kirwan.

However, he is wary of cunning plan by Waratahs coach Michael Cheika to alter his team's approach completely and wants his players to be prepared for anything.

Flanker Luke Braid shared the same view and said the Waratahs style of attack requires defences to be alert to intricate passing and running plays.

"South Africans are probably not as deceptive as the Aussie teams. They're big boys but Aussies run great lines; it's just in their nature and how they run," Braid said.

"South Africans are a bit more direct. They get into a big pod and you know where you're going to tackle, whereas there's a lot more deception in an Aussie team.

"We're going to have to be really switched on and be really physical at the same time."

Braid said the Blues are aiming to refocus themselves after they strayed from the winning formula which saw them unbeaten for the first two weeks.

"This whole week has been about getting back to what we do well," Braid added.

"We want to play running rugby and attack as much as possible and go that extra ruck. Because we know that things are going to open up later on."

Past experiences have taught the Blues not to underestimate any side, even if their previous form doesn't warrant respect from opposition.

The Blues were in horrible slump last year ended with the worst season record in franchise history.

Still they were able to upset their last three opponents and deprived the Brumbies of a spot in the play-offs.

Having lost three of their opening four games the Waratahs are edging closer to hitting the panic button, Braid isn't willing to take them lightly.

"I think you've got to look at them as a huge threat and bloody dangerous because any week they're going to get it right because they are a great team," Braid said.

"We've just got to make sure that it's not that week that you play them that they get it right. If they do they're going to be a dangerous side."