Super Rugby Pacific: Blues centurion Patrick Tuipulotu sympathetic to Crusaders' winless plight

As he finally celebrates his 100th appearance for the Blues, captain Patrick Tuipulotu admits some mixed feelings over the plight of his opponents for the occasion - the champion Crusaders.

While meetings between the two Super Rugby Pacific powers are regarded as one of the competition's big rivalries, in reality, the southerners have dominated, inflicting a 52-15 defeat in their most recent encounter in last season's semi-finals.

Patrick Tuipulotu at Blues training.
Patrick Tuipulotu at Blues training. Photo credit: Photosport

"Last time I beat them was my first start, my second game here," admitted Tuipulotu, pitchside at Eden Park. "That was 10 years ago, so this makes it extra special.

"The hard thing is feeling for how the Crusaders are going. Their run is quite tough at the moment, but anytime they come up against the Blues, they're a different team, so that's something we must watch out for."

Wait, you feel for the Crusaders?

"I've been in their position before, it's quite hard to be in," reflected Tuipulotu. "You come in every Monday, looking at each other for solutions, and nothing's quite working.

"I certainly have a bit of empathy there."

After capturing a Super Rugby crown in each of the past seven years - their one lapse was the Blues' trans-Tasman success in 2021, which no-one really counts - the Crusaders have started this campaign with four straight defeats.

With championship mastermind Scott Robertson promoted to the All Blacks role and a core of veterans heading offshore, new coach Rob Penney is also grappling with a very long injury list and now a suspension to prop Owen Franks.

Nursing a shoulder injury, Tuipulotu missed the Blues most recent victory over the Crusaders - a 2021 road win that felt like a turning of the tide at the time, but proved merely an oasis in the desert. 

The All Blacks lock knows these opportunities don't come along every day.

"It's really important to set our season up quite well. With the run of games, we have three in a row at home, if we get this one over the line and into a bye, we head into a pretty tough run against New Zealand teams.

"Hopefully, we get over the line."

Most of all, the Blues want to avoid becoming the team that allow the Crusaders off their skid.

Rookie Patrick Tuipulotu in action for the Blues 2014.
Rookie Patrick Tuipulotu in action for the Blues 2014. Photo credit: Photosport

"For sure," said Tuipulotu. "That was probably my first thought watching their game last week - they're going to come up here and we don't want to give them that start to their season. 

"We've definitely thought about that."

Tuipulotu has taken his share of knocks over the years, along with a 2022 Japan sabbatical, which have delayed his 100 games. He is returning ahead of schedule from a broken jaw suffered during a pre-season jaunt to Japan.

"I'm pretty lucky I didn't need to have surgery," he said. "It's healed quite well.

"I've certainly worn the headgear this week and had a few of the boys testing it - it's feeling good."

Join Newshub at 7pm Saturday for live updates of the Blues v Crusaders Super Rugby Pacific clash