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Blues ready for determined Stormers

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Lynn McConnell     29 Mar 2019     Getty Images

Coach Leon MacDonald said the Blues were under no illusions about the Stormers. They had managed to open up the Hurricanes last week and would be looking to play their smart kicking game and using their fast wings, to put pressure on the Blues.

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There had only been two starting changes to the home team with Otere Black at first five-eighths and Patrick Tuipulotu back at lock after a big game off the bench last week.

MacDonald said Black offered a more consistent kicking game than the less experienced Harry Plummer and that would be important in playing the territory game against the Stormers.

After the good win over the Highlanders, consistency of selection was important for the side and that was also reflected in playing wing Rieko Ioane ahead of his stand-down game on the All Blacks' rest schedule.

With Caleb Clarke and Matt Duffie coming back from injury there was also the consideration of marrying in Ioane's rest with their return.

MacDonald said belief within the side had always been there but to achieve a second win reconfirmed the feeling they were headed in the right direction.

"I think the biggest [and most] pleasing thing is we are definitely not happy where we are at and we have to keep getting better. Those games are won and lost on certain plays and you can't get ahead of yourself.
"There's a lot of times in the game where we didn't get it right as well so we'll just keep trying to be better every week and I think this week was one of our better, really good complete training weeks and we're really looking forward now to getting back on the grass again and having another crack," he said.

Knowing the Stormers, like all South African teams, looked to test the discipline of sides in order to kick to corners from penalties to unleash their lineout drives, MacDonald said the Blues had been good in not giving away so many penalties this year.

"Field position is going to be critical especially against a side that thrive when they are down in your 22, especially with their maul and their big men," he said.

MacDonald explained the decision to have his All Blacks props Ofa Tuungafasi and Karl Tu'inukuafe coming off the bench again was a reflection of the impact they had made in the same role against the Highlanders.
"It's probably been an area, historically, where we've lost a lot of games in that last 20 minutes but having quality off the bench like that was a deciding factor in our win. It's hard to ignore that.

"We rate both Alex Hodgman and Sione [Mafileo] really highly as well. Given their eight weeks ahead in their conditioning they are probably more likely to play more minutes than the guys who are coming back from the All Black-enforced break.

"Right here, right now, that's the way we see it. That could change next week or the week after," he said.

The choice at second five-eighths had been a tough call especially after Sonny Bill Williams' effort of also leading the side against the Sunwolves. Ma'a Nonu won the right to back-up after his effort against the Highlanders.

"They're both going to play, they're both in the 23," he said.

Another factor was the way centre TJ Faiane was playing, although he had played a lot of minutes which could see him rested and the All Blacks pair playing.