Super Rugby
Lam defends under-fire Brett
ESPNscrum Staff
July 1, 2011
Stephen Brett kicks for the posts, Blues v Waratahs, Eden Park, Auckland, New Zealand, April 16. 2011
Brett has been lambasted in the Australian press ahead of the Super Rugby semi-final © Getty Images

Blues head coach Pat Lam has leapt to the defence of his under fire fly-half Stephen Brett ahead of their Super Rugby semi-final showdown against the Reds in Brisbane.

The 25-year-old playmaker, who will join the Toyota Verblitz in Japan next season, has been labelled 'The Weakest Link' by the local media following his mixed showing last weekend as the Blues booked their place in the final four with 26-13 qualifier victory over the Waratahs.

Brett did miss five of six tackles attempted against the Tahs but Lam was quick to back a player he relegated to the bench after the Blues squandered a match-winning lead against the Stormers on May 20. "Whenever you drop a player you want to see their reaction from it and since that Chiefs game [when Brett was a second half substitute] his performances are getting better each game," Lam said.

"A lot's made of his mistakes but every player makes them. There's two roads to go, the one where you sulk and you don't be seen again or you dust off the dirt, stand up and get going again. That's what Stephen's done over his career. What I want from a player is character and strength of mind and that he's shown in the last three or four weeks."

Following suggestions that the Reds will target Brett, Lam reacted bullishly saying "That's been said all season; the same was said about Quade Cooper, Kurtley Beale. Everyone targets the 10."

Brett's opposite number will be Wallabies fly-half Quade Cooper and Lam was full of admiration for the way Reds' coach Ewen McKenzie has handled the talismanic, but occasionally reckless No.10. "It's a credit to Ewen," he said. "He's allowing Quade to do what he does; he's not trying to hold back the flamboyance. That breeds confidence if he's got the trust of his coach, peers and teammates."

Cooper has a tendency to produce the outrageous in pressure situations, no more so than in Round 6 when he put in a cross kick in his own in-goal area against the Cheetahs. Despite Cooper's tendency to play the games to its limits, McKenzie insists he has no worries over Cooper's mentality at the highest stage.

"I don't lie awake worrying about that. He understands the big stage and he's played on it plenty of times already and delivered," McKenzie said. "That's his personality. He's not afraid of the big stage and he likes to be challenged. His decision-making under pressure has matured."

Cooper exuded confidence when considering the biggest game of his Super Rugby career. "I won't be adjusting my game at all. I'll be going out there to be the same player I've been all year," he said.

Meanwhile, the Reds have history as well as one of world rugby's X-factor players on their side tomorrow. A team who qualified fourth have not beaten a top-seeded side since the Crusaders won their Super 12 semi-final against the Reds at Ballymore in 1999, and the last visiting team to win a semi-final were the Brumbies at Sydney in 2002.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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