CHRIS DUTTON July 13, 2012
Pat Lam is the right man to revive the Auckland Blues after a disastrous campaign and the players are desperate to finish their horror year on a high against the ACT Brumbies, skipper Keven Mealamu says.
The Blues arrived in Canberra last night, but they didn't travel with their coach after Lam fronted an interview panel in New Zealand yesterday in an attempt to keep his job for the 2013 season.
The three-time Super Rugby champions are 13th on the ladder.
They were tipped as a title contender this year, but injuries and poor performances have seen them win just three of their 15 games.
Having Lam remain in Auckland while the team travelled to the capital is hardly ideal preparation.
But Mealamu - who has more than 90 All Blacks caps - insisted the Blues were not distracted.
''We have to chuck everything into this game, it's our last game together,'' Mealamu said.
''We really want to do well for our coaches who are under pressure and for all of our fans, that's a big motivator for us.
''Pat made it clear to us after the Force game what was going to happen and we were prepared for that.
''I think he still has a lot to offer our franchise, it doesn't help when you have so many things go the way we wouldn't like and we'll be a lot better next year.
''It's not ideal, but we just have to move on and make sure we play well.''
The Blues added All Blacks stars Piri Weepu and Ma'a Nonu to their already star-laden roster this year.
But injuries have crippled their campaign.
Mealamu has missed the majority of the season and was frustrated further when he injured his calf in his comeback game for New Zealand last month.
As many as 16 of their top contracted players have been injured throughout the year and they will be missing Rene Ranger and Ali Williams in Canberra.
However, the Brumbies are aware the Blues will lift for one last assault before their season ends.
''It's like an exam and if you've done your homework, prepared properly and know what's coming you'll get a result,'' Brumbies coach Jake White said.
''I am nervous but at the same time I'm confident what we've put in from July last year will carry us through.''
Mealamu said the Blues lost confidence after a string of early-season losses, but were going into the match with the Brumbies with no fear.
''We were probably in our shells a little bit there for a while.''