Super Rugby Review: Blues

Date published: July 18 2016

With the Super Rugby quarter-finalists now decided we take a look at those teams who missed out. Next up, the Blues.

Tana Umaga was appointed as head coach of the Blues in June 2015 after former coach John Kirwan stepped down and advised that the former All Blacks captain succeed him and take the club forward.

However the Blues were low on confidence after finishing fourteenth in last year’s Super Rugby tournament with only three wins to their name.

Turning our attention to Umaga’s record in his Super Rugby debut season, we start from the very beginning when the Blues got their 2016 Super Rugby campaign off to a perfect start with a 33-31 victory over the Highlanders at Eden Park.

The result was a big one for Umaga and company as it was the Blues first victory over the Highlanders since 2014 and it meant that they started the tournament with plenty of confidence.  

If the Blues were in any other group they would have made the play-offs, as they ended off the season with a morale boosting 34-28 victory over the Waratahs which left them on seventh place in the Australasian group with 39 points from 15 games, which included eight wins coupled with one draw and six defeats. This is not a bad record if you take into account that the Blues had to play the majority of their games against the New Zealand teams who have dominated the tournament over the years.

Umaga will come away from the season however wondering what might have been had his side produced similar performances throughout their campaign as they did in the final two matches against the Brumbies and Waratahs when they were outstanding, especially centre Piers Francis and stalwart Jerome Kaino.

The club look to be heading in the right direction with Umaga at the helm and it might be sooner rather than later that the glory days return to the 2003 Super Rugby champions. Jimmy Tupou, Augustine Pulu and of course Sonny Bill Williams all look like smart signings.

Best player: When the Blues were hot, it was because Ihaia West was hot. The fly-half is still prone to the occasional maddening missed kick to touch and questionable decison, but he's certainly a talent, equipped to shred defences while improving his game management gradually with each season, and noticeably so under Umaga. The half-back finished off the campaign with 130 points which included four tries.