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Preview: Blues v Chiefs

12th July 2013 06:25

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To come out on top: Chiefs

Although it's the last round of the league phase of the competition, there will be no love lost when the Blues host the Chiefs on Saturday.

With it being a derby between two of the tournament's most entertaining sides, expect plenty of end-to-end action with running rugby the order of the day.

The Chiefs have already qualified for the play-offs but last weekend's humiliating 43-15 defeat to the Crusaders in Christchurch came at a huge cost, as they relinquished their spot at the top of the table to the Bulls.

Finishing in pole position in the standings will be hugely significant as it guarantees the team a home semi-final and a home final during the play-offs.

Chiefs coach Dave Rennie admitted that his side were outplayed against the Crusaders but they were determined to make up for that performance when they take on the Blues.

"It can be [a setback] if you let it be," he told Fairfax Media.

"We've got to look at things from a positive point of view and our destiny is still in our hands in regard to getting a home semi.

"So we've got to take the good things that we've been doing. All the hard work we've done during the year has put us in a situation where we can afford to drop a game and still have a chance to get a home semi.

"We won't be too down on it. The boys are really disappointed but we'll work hard this week and we'll rectify it on Saturday.

"The key is that we come out with a solution of what we want to do and it won't be too far different from what we've been trying to do, but there might be attitude adjustments, might be tweaking a couple of things in our programme or the way we're playing.

"So I've got no doubt that we'll turn things around quickly."

The Blues only have pride to play for. They are on a five-match losing streak after defeats to the Cheetahs, Sharks, Highlanders, Brumbies and Crusaders.

It will be an emotional match for their captain Ali Williams who will be playing his final game for the Auckland-based outfit before heading off to France where he will further his career at Toulon.

If the Blues manage to beat the Chiefs and deny the champions a losing bonus point it could have disastrous consequences for the men from Hamilton.

Such a result could see the Brumbies leap-frog them into second spot on the table while it could also help the Crusaders their bid to snatch the New Zealand conference from the Chiefs.

Blues boss Sir John Kirwan dismissed suggestions that his charges will be motivated to do the Crusaders a favour.

"We're not doing anyone any favours," he told Fairfax.

"It's about pride for us.

"We've had a season we expected, but if we can finish with a great performance, then it's been a real step in the right direction to put this franchise back on track.

"Yeah, we would have all loved to have made the playoffs, but it hasn't happened.

"But we've played some great football and are heading in the right direction, so we need to go out and play for pride and show people we are a force to be reckoned with."

In the 20 previous matches which these two sides have faced each other, both have won on 10 occasions. The Chiefs hold a significant edge, however, after winning their last four matches against the Blues. Included in that is a 23-16 win earlier this year.

Prediction: With nothing more than pride at stake, the Blues won't be as focussed as the Chiefs, who can still regain the top spot on the table.Chiefs to win by eight points!

The teams:

Blues: 15 Charles Piutau, 14 Frank Halai, 13 Rene Ranger, 12 Francis Saili, 11 Lolagi Visinia, 10 Baden Kerr, 9 Piri Weepu, 8 Peter Saili / Brendon O'Connor, 7 Luke Braid, 6 Kane Barrett, 5 Ali Williams, 4 Anthony Boric, 3 Angus Ta'avao, 2 Keven Mealamu, 1 Sam Prattley.
Replacements: 16 James Parsons, 17 Ofa Tu'ungafasi, 18 Liaki Moli, 19 Brendon O'Connor / Sean Polwart, 20 Jamison Gibson-Park, 21 Jackson Willison, 22 Marty McKenzie.

Chiefs: 15 Andrew Horrell, 14 Lelia Masaga, 13 Tim Nanai-Williams, 12 Bundee Aki, 11 Robbie Robinson, 10 Aaron Cruden, 9 Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 8 Matt Vant Leven, 7 Tanerau Latimer, 6 Liam Messam, 5 Brodie Retallick, 4 Craig Clarke, 3 Ben Tameifuna, 2 Hika Elliot, 1 Toby Smith.
Replacements: 16 Mahonri Schwalger, 17 Pauliasi Manu, 18 Michael Fitzgerald, 19 Sam Cane, 20 Augustine Pulu, 21 Gareth Anscombe, 22 Asaeli Tikoirotuma.

Date: Saturday, July 13
Kick-off: 19:35
Venue: Eden Park
Referee: Chris Pollock (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Jonathon White (New Zealand), Garrett Williamson (New Zealand
Television match official: Glenn Newman (New Zealand)

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