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Nepo Laulala, Josh Goodhue promoted as Blues muscle up for Super Rugby Pacific semi

Few teams have pushed the Blues in 2022 the way the Brumbies did in round 14 of Super Rugby Pacific.

That excruciating night in Canberra, settled only by a Beauden Barrett dropped goal at the death, forms a significant backdrop to Saturday’s semifinal at Eden Park.

It has influenced the tweaks the Blues coaches have made to their lineup this week – bringing in Nepo Laulala and Josh Goodhue to beef up their tight five – and it has largely informed their preparation for what’s forecast to be a wet semi. Three times Blues players got over the line that cool night in the territory, and three times they could not find grass as the desperate home side found a way to stay in the contest, despite a 16-5 penalty count against them, two yellow cards and a mountain of possession in the visitors’ favour.

The Blues walked off the park with the 21-19 victory to maintain a win streak that has now stretched to a franchise-record 14 after last Saturday’s 35-6 quarterfinal defeat of the Highlanders, but only by the skin of their teeth. Despite all that ball and field position (the home side made more than twice as many tackles that night and the Kiwis ran for over twice as many metres), the Brumbies actually outscored them three tries to two, with a brace coming from their trademark driving maul.

It’s why Blues forwards coach Tom Coventry was sure a “pretty formidable” challenge was coming his pack’s way on Saturday night (7.05pm kickoff) when the forecast wet weather is expected to favour the visitors. “They were bloody good last time and probably had the edge on us at times. I know they're pretty confident with the way they played against us and the upper hand they had at stages,” he said ahead of Thursday’s training hitout at Alexandra Park.