Super Rugby Trans-Tasman: Leon MacDonald relishing opportunity to end Blues' title drought

Now one win away from ending a title drought that spans 18 years, Blues coach Leon MacDonald insists it's business as usual for his side ahead of next week's Super Rugby Trans-Tasman final.

After Saturday's 31-21 victory over the Western Force at Eden Park, the Blues have arguably their best chance at silverware in nearly two decades and will host the Highlanders in the inaugural Super Rugby Trans-Tasman final.

Having fallen short in Super Rugby Aotearoa in both 2020 - where they finished second - and 2021, third, MacDonald admits: "It's pretty special for us.

"We were really disappointed with [Super Rugby] Aotearoa. We were one point away from making a final, and we didn't get there through our own form which wasn't quite where we needed to be in a tough competition," he says. "We were really consistent for four weeks in our performance, and that set us up with an opportunity to play for a final tonight, and to be able to grab that and have a home final is going to be special.

"I know a lot of guys in our group have been part of this Blues team for a long time and have been desperately keen to play in a Super [Rugby] final. 

"It is a special moment for us."

What's more, the Blues could lift Super Rugby Trans-Tasman without having faced the five-time reigning champion Crusaders, who failed to even reach the final on points differential to the Highlanders.

Rather than be weighed down by the potential asterisk over a title victory without beating the reigning champions, MacDonald assures victory over the Highlanders will be just as significant as it would be against the Crusaders.

"I think it's great," MacDonald says of not having to face his former side. 

"There are two teams who genuinely believe they can win a title.

"The Highlanders will be backing their chances as well. 

"Is it a good thing for New Zealand rugby? I think it's a great thing for the Blues. 

"We're pretty stoked about the opportunity ahead and pretty keen to grab it with two hands. Whether it's a good thing or not, I'm not sure.

"If you sit there and think about the perfect scenario, to beat the Crusaders at home would be magic. 

"But to play the Highlanders is going to be a great game as well. They'll use the ball well, and they play great rugby."

The Blues haven't won Super Rugby since 2003 and while there have been many false dawns since then, MacDonald asserts that his side isn't going to get carried away by the plaudits coming their way after a, so far, perfect campaign.

"We won't be getting ahead of ourselves. I'd say probably the media's going to be running that story [more] than us.

"We're very much feet on the ground, next job. It'll start tonight with the way we recover, Sunday and Monday. 

"It will be a bit of business as usual - get through our work and enjoy the week… It will be our last week together as a team, so we want to make sure we make the most of that and enjoy the occasion.

"It's a real privilege to play in a final - a lot of guys haven't been in games like this, a big final. It's something a bit new.

"We don't want to blow it up and freeze, so we want to make sure we do this right and make sure we manage the team well."

Join Newshub for live updates of the Super Rugby Trans-Tasman final between the Blues and Highlanders from 7:05pm Saturday.