Super Rugby Pacific: Blues quickly flush dusty Western Force performance, turn sights to Chiefs

Blues coach Leon MacDonald's mood visibly improves, when conversation turns to next week's Super Rugby Pacific blockbuster against unbeaten Chiefs at Hamilton.

After sitting several All Blacks, MacDonald had just watched his collection of fringe candidates and returning injured dispense with low-flying Aussies Western Force 30-17, without raising pulse rates above resting.

"I thought we had little patches where we started to get some momentum and a little bit of continuity, and we looked pretty good, then we'd miss a breakdown or let them on the ball, or lose the ball in contact and let the pressure valve off," he reflected, clearly peeved at missing a valuable bonus point.

"Plenty to work on... some good things around getting some guys some gametime and a bit of exposure, but the performance probably reflected the week.

"We got the win and we'll take it, we'll bank the four points and, obviously, we've got the Chiefs and a short turnaround."

Several... many... maybe most of the team suffered from a gastro bug that went through the camp, forcing prop Josh Fusitu'a to make a hasty halftime exit in a race to the ablution facilities. 

Hopefully, that illness will pass before this week's State Highway One showdown against their southern neighbours, currently unbeaten and atop the Super Rugby table.

"It's exciting, we love that challenge," sparked MacDonald. "It's one of the games the guys get up for.

"Hamilton is a place we like to go and win at - that's one of the better feelings in rugby.

"We'll turn this around pretty quickly. We'll have about 13 new players turning up to training on Monday, pretty fresh after a break and excited about the week ahead, and there'll be guys better for the hitout today as well." 

The Chiefs continued a faultless start to their 2023 campaign with a scratch 24-14 win over NSW Waratahs at Sydney, celebrating Damian McKenzie's 100th appearance in the jersey.

Emoni Narawa scores for Chiefs against Waratahs
Emoni Narawa scores for Chiefs against Waratahs. Photo credit: Getty

Their run started with a season-opener upset over six-time defending champions Crusaders, setting them as the early benchmark for others to topple. The Blues have lost to the Crusaders and ACT Brumbies, and clearly haven't hit their straps yet.

"We know we can play a game that can beat them, if we're on," insisted MacDonald. "There's areas we will have to be better at, we know that, but we're backing ourselves to go get a job done."

More to come