Super Rugby Pacific: Blues rue loss of talismanic skipper Patrick Tuipulotu with title beckoning

The Blues admit things just won't be the same without talismanic skipper Patrick Tuipulotu leading them into the fray for their Super Rugby Pacific semi-final on Friday.

One of the competition's form teams, the Blues now head into the final four without their locking linchpin, after the All Blacks veteran limped from the field against the Drua with a knee injury that will keep him out of action for the next 6-7 weeks.

Tuipulotu, 31, has been one of the driving forces of the Blues run to a second-place finish on the ladder, and the loss of both of his on and off-field contributions leave a massive void.

Tuipulotu nursing his knee injury.
Tuipulotu nursing his knee injury. Photo credit: Getty Images

Midfielder Rieko Ioane admits they'll certainly miss Tuipulotu's presence, but is confident the squad's 'next man up' mentality will ensure their overall standards remain high.

"It's huge," said Ioane. "Patty's been on fire all season and has been in the form of his career.  

"It was sad to see him go down on Saturday, but I think something that's been awesome about our team is we've had late call-ups, we've had injuries, mid-week and what not, even on game day.

"Everyone's just been able to step up, and [coach Vern Cotter] has put the confidence and belief in the boys who haven't had too much game-time that that they're still ready.

"It's not like we're getting a fresh lock out. I think Sam Darry is coming, right.

"There's experience there, but Patty's presence will definitely still be missed. "

Darry and Laghlan McWhannell missed last weekend's tie against the Fijians under concussion protocols, and the Blues will hope both are ready to return to shore up their locking stocks against the Brumbies.

Dalton Papali'i will take the captain's armband in Tuipulotu's absence.

"It's a big blow," added assistant coach Paul Tito.  

"He's been playing great rugby this year. Especially in the big games, he's really stepped up.  

"It's an opportunity for someone else to fill that role. Everyone's going to have to take a lead there and especially in the carrying part of the game... I think everyone's going to have to step up and own that."

The last time the Blues met the Brumbies at Eden Park, it was one-way traffic, with the hosts blitzing the Australians 46-7 in April.

Tito expects a much different challenge this weekend, with the Blues bracing for the men from the ACT to return to the forwards-based assault that's been a cornerstone of their game in recent years.

"I feel they went away from that against us in this first game, but I'm sure that what they know best is come through the front door and their maul," he said.  

"We're under no illusions how tough their maul has been in the past, and we respect that and we're doing our homework to make sure that we can counter that."

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