Different styles will clash in Trans-Tasman final

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Blues coach Leon MacDonald said the Highlanders had long used that tag as their motivation to get stuck into their New Zealand opponents while the Blues had come through a similar process, not having played in a final since 2003.

 

The two teams had several close results in recent times and were teams with different styles and different strengths, he said.

 

"It's going to be an intriguing battle and I think both teams are pretty keen to be successful. It's going to be an interesting night," he said.

 

"You can tell there's a final. I don't think you don't have to worry about trying to motivate the guys to play well. It's more making sure we stay clear on what we want to achieve in the game and be accurate.

 

"Nothing changes in terms of how you win the game. It's the external pressure, external noise and the prize that changes. We understand what's important in our game to get right, and a lot of it is around our mindset.

 

"We can't be distracted by the peripheral stuff and have got to be honed in on what's important to get that performance.

 

"It would be fantastic to win, but there's a big hurdle in front of us. It's new for us the finals' getting ahead of ourselves and talking about winning is not helping us. We haven't done that all week, and we won't be starting now."

While first five-eighths Otere Black provided some comfort in recovering from a leg injury suffered during training on Tuesday. MacDonald said the medical staff had done a great job with him, and during final training on Thursday he had taken a full part without any problems.

 

Flanker Tom Robinson, who has been a central part of the side's leadership, was not so lucky failing to get through concussion protocols. His place on the side of the scrum will be taken by Akira Ioane, who has played there, and at No8 during the season.

 

"He's set an attitude. His energy is contagious the way he hits rucks, and gets around the park, and goes for 80 minutes. We'll be asking all our players to play like Tom, we need that to get the result," he said.

 

The Highlanders had shown their match stamina during the competition, and MacDonald knew what was required to contain them.

 

"To get a result, we need to have high energy for 80 minutes. They're an 80-minute team, they pride themselves on their fitness and work rate, and we've got to match that.

 

"We'll miss Tom, but I know Aki is ready to step into those boots, as is the rest of the forward pack," he said.

 

Captain and lock Patrick Tuipulotu said the concentration during the week had been on preparing as they usually do and not getting ahead of themselves.

 

Issues they experienced in the lineouts against the Force had been given plenty of attention this week. They had a plan they intended to use, but it hadn't worked out.

 

Tuipulotu said it would be a challenge for the Blues pack against the mobile Highlanders unit, who also had a good set-piece while also using trick plays, especially at lineouts.