The Tana games continue and Tana still has everyone with an opinion wrapped around his little finger. While others discuss Tana's changes from week to week, we know, we know that Tana and the Blues are in it for the long haul, that there's still a lot to figure out in the Blues and that in an extremely strong kiwi Super Rugby conference, there's not much point in burning through all your resources just yet.
Again - I'll repeat this every week until I'm either wrong or the message sinks in - the Blues won't be winning Super Rugby this season. They won't even be in the top two of the kiwi teams, so cool your jets on the Blues.
Funnily enough though, right now there's a team who are 'worse' than the Blues with the Hurricanes coming off of two losses. One loss to the Highlanders who the Blues beat in round one so things are a little confusing, however I'm fairly certain with my gut-feeling about this game as I reckon the Hurricanes will get their first win of the season tonight.
What has me most concerned for the Blues is the Hurricanes backline (Perenara, Barrett, Savea, Laumape, Aso, Milner-Skudder and Marshall). Not only will they test the Blues' defensive steel with their strong ball-runners and hot-steppers, I expect TJ Perenara and Beauden Barrett to control the game with the levels of wizardry that they are capable of.
The Hurricanes don't have a forward pack to match their backline which comes in conjunction with a very strong forward pack selected for the Blues. Charlie Faumuina is back, forming what I consider to be our best front-row with Ofa Tu'ungafasi and James Parsons while Steve Luatua joins Josh Bekhuis at lock and Akira Ioane slots in at No.8.
Patrick Tuipulotu would be in the strongest Blues forward pack but he's toiled away for two weeks with a high workload, which when combined with Luatua's ineffective efforts in the loose means it's a good time to move Luatua back to lock.
Who wouldn't be excited to see Ioane start? This dude is a beast and he's going to be going up against two of the beastliest loose-forwards in Super Rugby (Victor Vito and Ardie Savea) which is a good test for Ioane. Expect Ioane to offer a far more dynamic running game than Luatua which will help the Blues not only with field position but also allowing more time and space for the backline.
I still don't know what our strongest backline is, so I don't mind these changes from Tana. Bryn Hall and Ihaia West start again which is cool while Rene Ranger moves to the wing with Male Sa'u taking his place in the midfield and Lolagi Visinia replacing Matt Duffie.
Sa'u didn't do a whole lot against the Highlanders so it will be interesting to see how here goes against a decent but not amazing Hurricanes' midfield combo of Laumape/Aso. Last week against the Crusaders, the Blues missed far too many tackles in the midfield and as we know that all these guys are ruthless ball-runners, it's the defensive side of things that I'll be paying attention to.
With Matt McGahan and Melani Nanai on the bench, don't be surprised to see Ranger moved into the midfield at some stage in place of Sa'u or Moala.
Keep an eye on Li, who has played 80 minutes in both games so far, enjoying consistent game time on the wing which I love from Tana. Li is a bit of a prodigy and just needs time in Super Rugby, so when you consider all the questions regarding Tana's selections, Tana's keeping Li in there to develop his craft and continue to adapt to big boy rugby. Li has a try, 55 running metres off 13 carries, 2 clean breaks and has only missed 1/11 tackles in a solid start to the season.
No expectations, no worries. The Hurricanes will probably grab their first win of the season and we'll keep learning more about the Blues, Tana and how this team could develop over time. Or they win and expectations keep blowing out, sure the Hurricanes can't go 0-3 though right?