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Blues prepared for Highlanders' challenge

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Wednesday, March 20, 2019    Lynn McConnell    Getty Images

The Highlanders would be looking for success after some frustrations of their own during recent rounds but the Blues had their own motivations to build on their last outing against the Sunwolves.

Assistant coach Tom Coventry reflected that when saying the Blues wanted to continue to improve.

"Winning is what it is all about. We haven't necessarily been that good at executing it at various times, especially down the other end of the field in the attacking zone," he said.

They would be looking for continuity in their performance and building on the strengths they did show in their win over the Sunwolves.

While they had been winless before that, they had come home from a tough tour and had performed well. They had been lower in possession than they wanted and they would have preferred to score their tries earlier in the game.

They had made hard work of some of their scoring opportunities, he said.

"We're a team that's forming, coming together with new coaching staff and also with the way we are trying to play the game, so it's been a little bit of a learning period for us but I think we are getting through it and trainings are getting better. The stats say we are getting better in aspects of our game that we pride ourselves upon so there are some good signs," he said.

The selection of the side to play the Highlanders reflected support for those who performed well against the Sunwolves. It was also felt having All Blacks available to come off the bench would also help the side towards the end of the game.

Coventry said props Ofa Tuungafasi and Karl Tu'inukuafe would reverse their usual roles and play loosehead and tighthead respectively.

"It's been a while since the Blues have knocked off a New Zealand franchise so we need to be really good. I think they [the Highlanders] were a wee bit frustrated against the Hurricanes and obviously they have had a pretty tough week as well, missing out on playing the Crusaders so they've had an imposed bye. I'm sure they'll be fresh for it but there'll probably be a wee bit of anxiety about losing their week of play.

"We'll be looking forward to them, they'll be challenging. They've had a good season to start with, they play a really vibrant style of football, move the ball well and they've got some real strike power across the field," he said.

Coventry said wing Matt Duffie had been bracketed on the bench to mark his prospective return to playing after a severe hamstring injury suffered while playing in the ITM Cup for North Harbour last year. Having pulled the hamstring high off his bone he underwent a reconstruction and was close to regaining full speed.

He played club rugby last weekend and got through that. Levi Aumua had been ill during the week and it was hoped he would be fit to play but if not Duffie would cover for him.