Bonus point could prove crucial in Capital clash

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A bonus point win could force the Blues to chase a bonus point in their game against the Chiefs in Auckland if they are to retain first place on the points table.

But Hurricanes coach Clark Laidlaw said he had learned over the years the need to respect what was in front of you, which meant securing a win was the foremost thought.

"If we get to the last 10, 15, 20 minutes and we've got a chance of pushing on, trying to get more tries, then we will [chase a bonus point]. But we need to make sure we win the game, and if we win by one point and finish second, we'll have to accept it.

Hooker Asafo Aumua's return is especially crucial for the side after the suspension replacement hooker Raymond Tuputupu received.

Laidlaw said Aumua had been 'super-diligent' with his rehabilitation.

"He could have probably played last week. He trained fully the week before and trained all this week, so he's excited to get a run."

His return had an impact on the playing group.

"He's got a big presence, is a good player, and has played many big games.

"Our expectation is he fits back in and does his hob, and gets back up to speed as quickly as possible."

Laidlaw said the Hurricanes were still not the finished article, and each week was about chipping away at areas of their game.

"Each individual has a focus around what they need to control and try and improve."

Each unit in the team had been following the same process.

There was no inclination to rest players as the Highlanders have done.

Laidlaw said they had two games guaranteed, at least in the remainder of the competition, but if they didn't get those games right, the season would be over.

"We've rotated and shared the load through the year when we can. Most players play their best rugby when they've had a run of games, so having four or five games under the belt as a team, and if they are fit and healthy, then they play."

The group had stayed connected, and players getting game time helped maintain energy within the group.

This was seen over the last few weeks when late withdrawals or injuries had not impacted the team's performance.

Laidlaw said the Highlanders were a side that liked to move the ball, but he didn't see their rotation changing that.

"They've played well over the last while, the Crusaders win, and they played well again at the weekend. And Jona Nareki coming back is a huge point of difference for them.

"We're well aware they'll come up here with not too much to lose. They'll give it a good swing so we'll need to be ready for it."


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