Robert­son’s bag of tricks for Blues

The Timaru Herald - - FRONT PAGE -

Blues in the fi­nal two decades ago, has been do­ing all he can to con­vince his play­ers that the north­ern­ers are still ca­pa­ble of un­leash­ing a sucker punch.

The trick is to make sure his men are lis­ten­ing. To ram the mes­sage home Robert­son asked his staff to dig into past match footage to, hope­fully, get their pulses rac­ing.

‘‘I love a video,’’ Robert­son ad­mit­ted. ‘‘I love telling sto­ries through pic­tures and mu­sic and stuff. Usu­ally we put some­thing to­gether to en­tice a few emo­tions and show what his­tory has gone by and how tough these games are.’’

Re­cent re­sults make for tough read­ing for Blues sup­port­ers; the Cru­saders have won their last six games against them, the long­est win­ning streak in the his­tory of the fix­ture.

Last year the Blues ap­peared to have the Cru­saders’ heads on the block in Christchurch when they led 21-5 at half­time, but had no an­swer to the home side’s dom­i­nant set pieces and driv­ing mauls in the sec­ond stanza as they slumped to a 33-24 loss.

Robert­son, like a teacher re­lay­ing mes­sages to his pupils, likes to make a point through sto­ry­telling; as a player he recog­nised the Blues as the real en­emy and to ig­nore the past would be ill-ad­vised.

‘‘To know where you are go­ing, you have to know where you come from and his­tory is re­ally crit­i­cal for mak­ing sure the boys un­der­stand what games have been (played in the past), and how they tough they are.

‘‘We have re­flected on the good and bad … his­tory has been cov­ered.’’

Adding some spice to this en­counter is the re­cent news that for­mer Cru­saders as­sis­tant coach Leon MacDonald, who left the fran­chise with a year left on his con­tract af­ter they won the ti­tle last sea­son, has agreed terms to be an as­sis­tant at the Blues from next year.

The de­ci­sion to rest cap­tain and lock Sam White­lock is a cal­cu­lated gam­ble. Robert­son will hope the gi­ant All Black returns re­freshed for the block­buster against the Hur­ri­canes in Christchurch on May 25 – a game that could de­ter­mine the top team in the Kiwi con­fer­ence – and in do­ing has placed his trust in Scott Bar­rett and Quin­ten Strange to do a job in the sec­ond row.

Re­in­force­ments in the form of tight­head prop Owen Franks and sec­ond five-eighth Ryan Crotty, both were rested from the Waratahs game, could be viewed as com­pen­sa­tion in terms of pro­vid­ing ad­vice to stand-in skip­per Matt Todd if things gets tight. Robert­son will be hop­ing it doesn’t come to that.

Op­er­at­ing a dis­ci­plined de­fen­sive line to suf­fo­cate the at­tack­ing prow­ess of Sonny Bill Wil­liams and Rieko Ioane will be paramount said for­mer Blues halfback Bryn Hall, who trans­ferred to the Cru­saders last year.

‘‘The amount of talent they have there, it is go­ing to click some­time,’’ Hall said.

‘‘Be­ing able to take away their time and space, they have a lot of x-fac­tor and a lot of great in­di­vid­u­als who can beat you one on one and put you in a lot of trou­ble.’’ Cru­saders: David Hav­ili, Seta Ta­mani­valu, Jack Good­hue, Ryan Crotty, Ge­orge Bridge, Richie Mo’unga, Bryn Hall, Jor­dan Tau­fua, Matt Todd (cap­tain), Hei­den Bed­wellCur­tis, Quin­ten Strange, Scott Bar­rett, Owen Franks, Codie Tay­lor, Tim Perry. Re­serves: Andrew Makalio, Wy­att Crockett, Mike Alaala­toa, Mitchell Dun­shea, Pete Samu, Mitchell Drum­mond, Mitchell Hunt, Manasa Mataele Blues: Matt Duffie, Me­lani Nanai, Or­byn Leger, Sonny Bill Wil­liams, Rieko Ioane, Stephen Pero­feta, Au­gus­tine Pulu (cap­tain), Akira Ioane, Dal­ton Pa­palii/Mur­phy Tara­mai, Jerome Kaino, Ma­ti­aha Martin, Ger­ard Cow­ley-Tui­oti, Ofa Tu­un­gafasi, James Par­sons, Pau­liasi Manu. Re­serves: Matt Moulds, Ross Wright, Sione Mafileo, Ben Nee-Nee, Mur­phy Tara­mai/An­to­nio Kiri Kiri, Jonathan Ruru, Dan Kirk­patrick, Michael Collins. Ref­eree: Glen Jack­son Kick­off: 7.35pm


Coach Scott Robert­son (right) talks tac­tics with as­sis­stant Brad Mooafr ear­lier this week.

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