Blues not writing off winless Crusaders

Blues wary

It is the Blues' first game on their main ground this season, and it is a chance to improve the statistical record between the sides, which has been heavily in favour of the Southerners.

The Blues have not won at home over the Crusaders since their 35-24 win in 2014. But they go into Saturday's game, having won 18 of their last 20 games at the ground.

Yet, the Southerners' past dominance and desire to break their losing streak this season—their worst in 29 years of Super Rugby and the worst start by a defending champion—are powerful motivations for the home side to be on their guard.

The return of lock Patrick Tuipulotu is bolstering the home team to play his 100th game for the side.

He said, "Coming back after an injury layoff and being able to launch straight into the Crusaders is awesome. It's going to be physical and tough, and we know they're coming to Eden Park to spoil the party.

"We're leaving no stone unturned at training this week. This is a big game for us and our fans."

While centre Rieko Ioane is working through concussion protocols, his place is taken by AJ Lam.

Coach Vern Cotter said they needed to address aspects of their win over the Waratahs, and he was confident they had achieved it.

"There are no easy games in this competition and we know the Crusaders are a good side and have been for many years. This week has been about us and our improvement."

Meanwhile, having Canberra's Raiders in town for their NRL game with the Warriors gave Crusaders coach Rob Penney the chance to talk with Canberra coach Ricky Stuart about the Crusaders' losing streak.

Last year, the Raiders faced a similar situation, with one win and five losses at one point. However, they improved and won 10 consecutive games.

Penney said, "We just discussed how that turn around came about. It feels as though that situation and what he was talking about is the situation we're in here."

For all the disappointment associated with their unprecedented four-game losing start, the players showed no sign of frustration.

"They come in, they're reviewing as assiduously as they were at the start of the season to get better, to get improvement."

The players were excited about the future and did not seek excuses. They were looking forward to reaching the level they knew they were capable of when the side's rhythm and flow returned.

He has told the players not to feel sorry for themselves ahead of their game with the Blues because no one else was.

With so many depletions through injuries, Penney likened their case to an eight-cylinder motor running on six cylinders with the choke out.

Lock Zach Gallagher, who has a concussion, joined the list of injured. Prop Owen Franks is suspended for his head contact tackle in the last minute against the Hurricanes. Still out are captain Scott Barrett, Ethan Blackadder, Fergus Burke, Tamaiti Williams, Brodie McAlister, Leigh Halfpenny, Rivez Reihana, and Christian Lio-Willie, while Will Jordan and Braydon Ennor are out for the season.


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