New Zealand teams are taking advantage of Australia’s Super Rugby uncertainty, All Blacks legend Tana Umaga says.
Umaga’s Blues inflicted the 17th straight trans-Tasman defeat of 2017, a 40-33 win over the Waratahs, giving them a perfect record from their Australian tour.
The former All Blacks centre said the ongoing speculation around Australia’s Super Rugby future was clearly having an impact on its teams, even those who are safe, like the Waratahs and Brumbies, who the Blues have beaten in the past fortnight.
“We all know there's been some tough things going on over here and not just on the field, obviously, off the field,” - Tana Umaga.
“So it's unsettling. When you've got that, it's pretty tough to keep everyone on an even keel when you're always looking over shoulder wondering, ‘What if? What could happen?'
“That's tough. I think there's some quality players and staff involved in these groups and they'll get it back on track but I suppose what everyone's looking for is a decision to be made so everyone can know what's happening.
“We're taking advantage of that, obviously, and again once they sort that out I'm sure Australian rugby will be back on track.”
The lull in Australian rugby could be extra painful for the Blues, who sit ahead of all their rivals across the ditch but look set to miss the finals with all conference winners guaranteed a finals spot, and three wildcards on offer from the Australasian conferences.
The Blues are still a chance of making finals, six points below the fourth-placed Highlanders who hold the final wild card spot after round 11, but Umaga said they couldn’t focus on the format quirks.
“It is tough and there is anomalies involved in it and that's probably why they've got to change next year so we're playing more derbies, which we're all looking forward to,” Umaga said.
“The way it is, we know we've got to be able to beat teams in our own conference and that's what we strive for.
“If we can't, that means we've got to improve and we want to improve and we want to get better.
“We're slowly doing that but the structure is what it is and we realised that right from the start.”
Blues skipper James Parsons wasn’t losing any sleep over the inequality, still confident of running down the Highlanders, six points clear of the Blues.
“From our point of view, to win the competition you've got to beat the best teams,” - James Parsons.
“If we've got the most opportunity to play those teams more often, it gives us a better opportunity if we can get into the finals, to win it.”