Dalton Papali’i’s take on Blues being top seed


The Blues secured the title of top team in Super Rugby Pacific with a 31-27 win over the Hurricanes in Auckland over the weekend.

With three rounds to go in the season, the Auckland team appears to have timed it perfectly and has reached its peak at the end of the season, after losing to the Hurricanes in the third round.

But All Balck Dalton Papali'i were sure to gauge expectations and stay grounded when speaking to the media after the contest that saw them finish first in the table.

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“I've been here before, and we choked in the finals. Everybody's going to be our way,” he said.

“But there are so many teams in this competition and I think everyone is being chased and we have to try to win every week by focusing on today, and that means training all the way from Monday and Tuesday until match day.” “.

The Blues finished top of the Super Rugby table in 2022 with just one loss to their name during the regular season, but lost to the Crusaders in the final as the Canterbury side secured their sixth title in as many years.

Papali'i are keen to learn lessons from that experience and ensure they go one better in 2024.

The Highlanders, Crusaders and Chiefs all stand in the way of Papali'i and company for a top seed that would guarantee them home-court advantage throughout the playoffs.

This weekend will see Eden Park host the Blues' contest against a Highlanders side who recorded a historic win over the Crusaders under the roof in Dunedin.

The standout performer in that game was winger Timosi Taftafanawe, a man who is not only in the top five in terms of number of defenders beaten – again – in 2024, but also in terms of turnovers broken.

“It's a credit to his game. He changes what the winger does over the ball,” Papalii added. “But I saw where our wings can get over the ball here. It changes a little. They can do a lot of things that wingers never used to like defending, but now they love defending.

Hosting another Kiwi derby is an exciting prospect for the Blues, with the Hurricanes clash attracting a crowd of 26,000 at the infamous Eden Park last Saturday afternoon.

Papali'i spoke about what it meant for the team to have such support there on such a big occasion that he and fellow All Black TJ Perenara then agreed to play an intense Test match.

“People don't understand how much it affects the players. The whole atmosphere was lit up. This is the first time we've played Super Rugby where we've had that, apart from the Covid 'Canes game, where we've had a sell-out.”

“It just adds an extra few percent of players to play harder.”





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