Blues' culture plagued by expectation of defeat - Dowd

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As the Blues struggle their way through another Super Rugby season, some words from Sir Michael Jones, one of the original legends of the Blues, ring true. On one occasion, when Jones was captaining the side early in Super Rugby, he said: "Guys, we've almost got to die for each other out there."

If you have that sense that you have to put your body on the line to that level, then 15 guys have got everyone's back. There was that level of expectation all the time during those early years at the Blues, but Jones verbalised it. That stayed with me. We all know and love Michael's passion but he got the message across.

But looking at the Blues now, some of the individuals in the side have the effort, but 'some' is not good enough. The squad has to have it.

It may be time to make some hard selection decisions so that everyone in the side is competing for their place, and it may be that Jerome Kaino's best will be seen when he comes on from the bench.

I was talking with an American friend who, like most Americans, is big on statistics in sport. He asked me how players were measured by stats.

But what do you look for in rugby? I know the players all wear GPS units and are monitored, but all the stats in the world can't replace the fact that if you miss one tackle you should be in line to be dropped. And that should be enough. It's a red flag against your name because it created something for the opposition to build off.

There are other ways, too, like the effort levels of guys to be in line to make the tackle. You can go through a game not missing any tackles but at the same time you've got to put yourself in a position where you can make a tackle.

Saturday's 19-21 loss against the Chiefs was frustrating. The Chiefs didn't look the force they had been in earlier games and while the Blues' defence was reasonably solid, and definitely an improvement on their effort against the Sharks, the whole game had an air of inevitability about it.

The writing was on the wall and you just sensed something was going to happen.

The Blues did enough to win the game but they didn't. And coming off a couple of shockers this year, including the Sharks and Stormers the two games prior; but it's just the same old, same old.

Tana Umaga will be pulling his dreadlocks out. He will be incredibly frustrated. You can go right back to Pat Lam; the same results are still happening. You have just got to ask yourself, what is wrong?

It can't be the coach. There has to be an entrenched culture even to the point where as an ex-Blues player myself I was able to sit there and think 'I thought that was going to happen'.

When I was playing the expectations from the fans were 'Don't you dare lose'. As players, we were scared to lose and the fear of losing was almost as strong as the will to win whereas I don't think that's there any more. I don't feel those players are walking off the field, looking their fans in the eye and saying 'I've really let you down' and the fans being really disgusted with them.

We've come to accept that's the Blues and that's what will happen because that's what they do. And that's a really negative place to be. That comes right down to myself as a fan and my expectations have to rise and the Blues fan base have to push more and expect more, and demand that. And the players have got to feel it.

Look at the Warriors, the players are having fun, they're excited, they're vocal and that leads to the culture side. I think it's taken a real shake-up for the Warriors to get to where they are. When the club's up for sale, if not sold already, not only players but management, CEOs, secretaries, the cleaner, all think 'hey is my job safe?' So everyone picks up their act and I think the Blues can learn from that.

I'm not saying the club, or the franchise is going to sell, but they should ask themselves 'What am I doing to make a difference?' The real issue is that it goes right down to the baggage-man or the person who cleans out the dressing room - from that level right through to the guy who signs the cheques and beyond to the fans, the culture just has to be right. They're has got to be a common goal.

Everyone's expectations, everyone's effort has to increase. Then the players have to take that on their shoulders, and carry that burden. And when things don't go right, they cop it. They get dropped. There's got to be that competitive nature and absolute fear of losing because everyone beside them, or around them, has higher expectations.

Meanwhile, the Hurricanes' game against the Sharks, for me, was the real nail-biter of the weekend. To sit and watch it proved to me the way the Blues lost to the Sharks a week earlier; it wasn't the best of games by the Blues, and the Sharks are certainly a talented team.

They were really, really impressive and the du Preez brothers, Jean-Luc and Robert, are class acts. I believe the Sharks will emerge as real contenders. They are going to take some big scalps and they are not finished for this season that's for sure.

To be able to come to New Zealand and get a really good win over the Blues and be unlucky not to come away with the game against the Hurricanes says plenty about their ability.

That effort shows me that South African rugby is on the rise. The Lions have been strong over there for the last couple of years but have lost their coach Johan Ackermann and are not quite as strong as when he was there. But the way the Sharks have developed showed me that they are in a pretty good space.

For the Hurricanes, however, it proved that even without Beauden Barrett, and TJ Perenara for three-quarters of the game, they have the depth to still secure the win. Blues discard Ihaia West did the job at No.10 in place of Barrett.