By The Spotter
The Blues will be up shit street 2018 without a Super Rugby play-off shovel if they can’t motivate themselves to turn around their fortunes against a team that they should definitely beat tonight, the Jaguares.
Barring their sorry injury list, everything else will be in their favour. The conditions (they will be mildly awful to terrible), the draining time difference and flight hours between Auckland and Buenos Aires, and the player-to-player match ups- The Blues definitely shade that. Although the disclaimer being they play to their (that cursed word) potential.
Watch the first twenty minutes closely. That period is sure to tell us if the Blues are up for the fight or not. If the Jaguares look like they are getting over the advantage line just a bit too easily in that first quarter, get ready for another dire night and the sight of poor old James Parsons trying to put a positive spin on it all at the end in the onfield interview.
Fans will be looking for a barnstormer from Akira Ioane. We shouldn’t be having to debate the merits of who will replace Read against the French, because the Blues 8 should have been good enough to have rendered that discussion null and void. He could be something amazing, but where is the consistent drive and ambition? I haven’t seen it. He could be a young Buck Shelford, but with wheels and far superior ball skills. To even mention him in the same breath almost feels like a kind of sacrilege though. Come on Akira, be that special player and pull finger.
Another surprise is that the Jaguares haven’t had a better overall record in their Super Rugby history- particularly at home. Especially when you consider the very good record of Argentina at recent World Cup editions. Perhaps it is something about the highest competition possible that really stokes the fires of the Argentine bellies. Because the fact is, Los Pumas are usually a bit of rabble between Rugby World Cups. More like ‘Lost Pumas’. Is it no coincidence that this happening more or less mirrors the same habit of their national football team?
Tonight’s clash could well be a draw. It’s that hard to choose. But it shouldn’t really be.
Talltree@xtra.co.nz (Paul M)