Finlay Christie, the Blues halfback with the best view in the house as his side continue to combine a muscular pack with backline firepower the envy of the competition, has stressed the importance of the next two matches against Australian opposition.
The Blues, who sit atop the Super Rugby Pacific table on 45 points ahead of the Brumbies (43) and Crusaders (39), are determined not to slip up as the end of the regular season approaches.
After they play the Reds at Eden Park on Saturday, the Blues travel to Canberra to play the Brumbies and then Sydney to play the Waratahs, and while they are almost guaranteed to have a home quarter-final, they won't tolerate a slip-up.
“We’re viewing the next couple of weeks as games that could potentially make our season,” Christie told 1News.
“If we get them right, then hopefully we’ll be sitting pretty on the table and hopefully have a home quarter-final, which is the goal at this stage.
“Having the Reds and Brumbies one after the other – they’re the best two teams in Aussie at the moment.
“Obviously, the Brumbies are coming off a great win and the Reds are a bloody good team too. It’s going to be a good challenge. By no means are we thinking the Aussie teams aren’t as good as the Kiwi teams because over the last couple of weeks we’ve seen that’s not the case. We’re treating the Reds like the big game it is and we’re looking forward to getting back to Eden Park.”
The Reds will arrive fresh from a disappointing defeat to the Highlanders in Brisbane, but the Blues will be mainly concentrating on themselves as usual.
Christie and his teammates may have filed into Monday’s team review of the 71-28 thrashing of the Rebels at Eden Park last Friday confident the coaches would have few gripes, but that wasn’t exactly the case.
“We found a few things that we can get better at,” he said. “They still scored four tries.”
It is a demanding attitude that has set them on their current 10-game winning streak and which has included excellent victories over the Chiefs in Hamilton and Crusaders in Christchurch.
A better workrate has helped the Blues get the most out of their undoubtedly talented squad. Their backline has flourished under the direction of Stephen Perofeta and Beauden Barrett, but a major foundation has been set by their forwards.
“Our forwards just set a great platform for us,” Christie said. “Our whole game flows from there and when our forwards are doing the job and we’re winning the breakdown, obviously with the backline we have - they get time and space so it’s going to be hard to defend.
“It’s pretty crazy, the things some of those boys do. It’s on the training field as well – guys like Rog [Tuivasa-Sheck] with his footwork and Rieko [Ioane] with his speed. We’ve got Mark [Telea] and Caleb [Clarke] who are freak athletes as well and obviously we’ve got Beauden running the cutter who everyone knows is a freak of nature. It’s awesome to be able to play alongside guys like that.”
Christie, contracted to the Blues until the end of next year, said his side, who last won a full Super Rugby title in 2003, wouldn’t settle for anything less than the championship in 2022.
“That’s been the goal for the last couple of years and we’ve believed it as well,” he said. “I guess the change everyone is going to have to get used to this year is quarter-finals, semifinals and a final [after a round-robin and final in last year’s Super Rugby Aotearoa and the Trans-Tasman competition]. The goal is to make that quarter and it’s finals footy – you can only think a week at a time.
“It’s trying to get in a good spot on the table, hopefully get a home quarter, and go from there.”