COVID-19 restrictions and guidelines mean each team will fly in and out of cities on the same day on chartered flights. It’s a format that the NBA teams follow, and one that Blues outside back Matt Duffie is looking forward to.
“It’s pretty crazy, it will be like NBA teams on our own charter jets. It will be different, but it will be cool.”
Having played rugby league over in Australia before switching back to rugby union, Duffie said it’s been a long time since he travelled on game day.
“Going back to when I played reserve grade, when I was just starting out, I used to do that over in Australia, flying to Queensland to play and then come back. It’s different but it’s one of those things you just get used to. The best thing about it will be that we will be in our beds that same night wherever we play and the next day is easier.”
The Blues were on a roll before the break this season, having won five from seven matches, including a successful South African tour. They were second in the New Zealand conference and the Blues are determined to build on the strong start they made. Duffie knows very well how difficult New Zealand derbies are going to be every week.
“It’s going to be physically challenging and probably mentally challenging as well with all the changes to the environment and the way we will travel to games and no crowds, but above all else it’s very exciting. Over the years we have always had the desire to play well against New Zealand teams. It’s going to be an exciting competition with some pretty hectic games, but I’m looking forward to it.”
The 29 year-old has welcomed new recruit Beauden Barrett at training with open arms over the last week and has been trying to learn as much as he can from the All Blacks first five-eighth.
“We have a world class player and his resumé speaks for itself. Ever since he’s turned up, he’s bought into what we are about and added his little sprinkle of greatest. He’s leading the way through his actions not just in fitness, but just around our skills and drills and I’m sure it’s really good for us as a backline to have a player of his calibre.”
Blues head coach Leon MacDonald said picking his team for their first match against the Hurricanes in Auckland on Sunday 14 June at 3:05pm is going to be a challenge and the coaching team have a lot of selection headaches, which puts them in a good place.
MacDonald has no doubt about how tough the competition is going to be for his players.
“It’s going to be pretty close to Test match intensity week after week. So, if you have aspirations of becoming an All Black, this is a bit of a taste of what it’s going to be like. It’s going to test us, and we will see where we are at which is really exciting for us as a group.”
Investec Super Rugby Aotearoa kicks off on Saturday 13 June, with the Highlanders hosting the Chiefs at Forsyth Barr Stadium at 5:05pm. All games will be live on Sky Sport. Check out the full draw HERE.