Live updates: Super Rugby Pacific final - Blues v Chiefs at Auckland's Eden Park

  • 22/06/2024

Click here for match report

Kia ora, good evening and welcome to Newshub's live coverage of the Blues v Chiefs Super Rugby Pacific final at Auckland's Eden Park.

Last time these two teams met at this venue in the final round of the regular season, the visitors scored a last-gasp try to deprive the home team the bonus point needed to finish atop the table and secure home advantage through the playoffs.

Three weeks later, they're back, with the Chiefs building on that form to overwhelm Queensland Reds in the quarter-finals and topple tabletoppers Hurricanes in the semis.

The Blues have remained imperious, squashing the ACT Brumbies challenge early to seal a home final.

They have received an unexpected boost with the early return of captain Patrick Tuipulotu from what seemed like a serious knee injury. How long he lasts remains to be seen, but his intent shows how badly the Blues want their first title in 21 years.

Join us at 7pm for kickoff.

TAB Odds: Blues $1.45, Chiefs $2.60


Opposing coaches put master-apprentice relationship aside for Blues v Chiefs Super Rugby final

Blues coach Vern Cotter considers his relationship with Chiefs counterpart Clayton McMillan is better left unexplored and thinks his rival would agree.

That doesn't really seem to be the case.

As they prepare their teams to do battle in the Super Rugby Pacific final, Cotter and McMillan have been reminded of their previous master-and-apprentice act at Bay of Plenty 20 years ago now.

After ending his playing career overseas, Cotter returned to New Zealand, where the Steamers became the first line on his coaching CV, while McMillan became a centurion and captain under his watch.

Asked to share any standout memory or tidbit of gossip on McMillan's younger days, Cotter politely declines. 

"I promised him I wouldn't say anything and I think he's promised the same," he insisted.

Some 120km further south, McMillan is only too happy to share his recollections.

"It's a long time ago now, but a lot of memories," he admitted. "Rugby is about making memories and I've certainly got some fond ones of my time at Bay of Plenty, when Vern was coach.

Clayton McMillan and Vern Cotter share a yarn before a Super Rugby Pacific game
Clayton McMillan and Vern Cotter share a yarn before a Super Rugby Pacific game Photo credit: Photosport

"He certainly brought a different style to what we had with Gordon Tietjens for a number of years and we enjoyed some pretty good success when he was there. He's a good man, who has that ability to get a collective group to understand the value of working hard, but also enjoying yourself and celebrating success.

"No surprises he done a great job wherever he's gone."

Since leaving the Bay in 2004, Cotter, 62, has peddled his trade around the world, with stops at the Crusaders, France, Scotland and Fiji, eventually landing at the Blues, after Leon MacDonald left to join the All Blacks staff this year. 

Along the way, he has picked up the nickname 'Stern Vern', a monicker that doesn't do justice to the humour on show inside the media huddle.

"I think it's the blue eyes," deadpanned McMillan. "When they give you that stare, you don't have to say too much, you just know you've either done something good or something bad, and whichever one you interpret, you probably need to make a few shifts.

"He knows what he wants to get from a rugby player and rugby team. He doesn't mince his words and you know where you stand with him.

"He may be 'Stern Vern', but he's got the ability to put an arm around somebody as well."

Some of those qualities have undoubtedly passed on to McMillan, who returned to coach the Steamers and Māori All Blacks, en route to the Chiefs

"Stern Vern... he's got a lot of that in him," chuckled Chiefs and All Blacks midfielder Anton Lienert-Brown. "It's only because he wants the best for everyone and sometimes that's through tough love.

Clayton McMillan in action for Bay of Plenty, circa 2003.
Clayton McMillan in action for Bay of Plenty, circa 2003. Photo credit: Photosport

"At the end of the day, he really cares about everyone in this team."

Pushed, Cotter concedes he saw future coaching greatness in his protege all those years ago.

"There was no doubt he was going to be a coach," he said. "A great leader of men, good understanding of the game, good instinct, good process in how he plans and executes."

Told McMillan remembers him as a "grumpy bugger", Cotter admits he has mellowed since those times.

"You get a bit older and wiser, don't you, and do things a bit differently through experience... thanks Clayton."

The pair have not communicated this week and don't plan to before stepping onto Eden Park on Saturday.

"I'll shake his hand before the game and I'll shake it afterwards," said Cotter. "We'll have a chat."

McMillan claims the Blues kindly catered morning tea for their rivals this week, but apart from that, no banter has been forthcoming.

"None whatsoever and not likely too either," he said. "We're both competitors, we'll probably meet on halfway, shake each other's hand and talk a bit of rubbish then.

"Afterwards, whatever the result, we'll have a beer together and go on our merry way."