Blues coach warns of a sentimental Ballymore
May 11, 2000

Auckland Blues coach Gordon Hunter has told his team to keep emotion out of its all-important Super 12 rugby game against the Queensland Reds at Ballymore on Saturday.

The Blues arrived in Brisbane on Thursday with Hunter saying he was aware of the sentiment involved in the game, which could be long-time Reds coach John Connolly's last Super 12 game in charge of Queensland. Connolly is tipped to retire from the Queensland position and leave for South Africa where speculation has him heading to Durban to take over as Sharks coach from Hugh Reece-Edwards.

Cats coach Laurie Mains, who had indicated he was keen to return closer to his Otago home at the end of this season with the Gauteng Union, was being touted as one possible replacement for Connolly. However, with a semi-final berth at stake, Hunter has instructed his team to keep its minds on the job ahead.

The Blues are in fourth place on the Super 12 table, just ahead of the Hurricanes and the Cats. Hunter is aware of the Reds players' vow to send off Connolly in style and that the Ballymore faithful could be awash in the emotion of the moment.

"Make no mistake, we really respect this opponent, they played a huge game against the Brumbies last weekend," Hunter said. "They're in good form, and what we do know from our inquiries is that there is talk of the coach finishing off and perhaps there is emotion involved in that.

"What I know with my team is that we cannot allow emotion to become involved in our preparation in any shape or form."

The Blues spent their final training session at home sharpening up their kick-offs and restarts, which were disappointing against the Cats.

"Certainly it is an area we've needed to work on, I think our timing and planning there hadn't been up to it," Hunter said. "But we've addressed it and it is something we need to improve."

The Blues need a win to make the semi-finals and that was the first priority, captain Robin Brooke said.

"Once we do that then certainly we will look for the bonus point but we must win this game," he said.

Hunter also dismissed the Blues' Ballymore bogey, saying the fact they had never won at the ground in this competition had no relevance.

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