Coles: Hurricanes remaining battened down
Three wins in succession have quickly changed the flood of public opinion that threatened to sink the Hurricanes early in Investec Super Rugby 2014, but even with the turnaround they are not getting ahead of themselves.
That early disappointment is a good leveller and hooker Dane Coles said while the last two weeks had been much more enjoyable they knew they needed more success.
As they had always believed in what they were doing the run of success was not a surprise but winning had made things easier and made the hard work worthwhile.
The Blues have long been a traditional opponent in Super Rugby and they would get every respect ahead of Friday's game, Coles said.
"They will be disappointed after their loss to the Brumbies and we know they have the potential in their side.
"They have a lot of guys coming back from injury and I know that Keven Mealamu will be keen to get amongst it," he said.
While both teams had completed their South African tours, and all the physical punishment that goes with games in the Republic, there was still something about the local derbies in New Zealand.
The South African sides were always a physical trial, the New Zealand sides added speed around the field to the physicality and that could be just as demanding, Coles said, and the Blues were one team who could play that game effectively if allowed.
The game is also timely for the hookers Coles and Mealamu. Coles is the apprentice, the All Blacks hooker in waiting with Mealamu attempting to show that he is over the calf injuries that have marked the latter part of his career.
Coles had grown up with Mealamu as a model for how he wanted to play hooker, and while he had been at school when Mealamu had first played for the All Blacks he had proven a generous mentor on the international stage.
"It has been great to get alongside him. He is a top man, a top player and a very humble man. He has been excellent for me and has been able to teach me things that no-one else can simply because of his 100 Tests experience," he said.
Coles carries the mantle of the next All Blacks hooker but said nothing in life was ever guaranteed.
"Every week I just go out there determined to perform at my best and that has never changed," he said.
There were other hookers who were coming through the system, the likes of Liam Coltman, Rhys Marshall or Ged Robinson who were well capable of playing internationally and that would be seen in the next few years, he said.
In the meantime, the scrum remains one of the focal points of the game as it again comes under scrutiny from critics. Coles said that after some early hiccups the Hurricanes scrum had settled down and whether it was coincidental with the side's improved success rate the last four or five weeks had been much more comfortable up front.
The revised emphasis was something hookers had to adapt to. Previously it wasn't necessary for the hooker to actually hook the ball and it was important now for the hooker and halfback to practice more together to get their combination right.
"The quicker you can get the ball out, the quicker the scrum can break up," he said.
And that is what the Hurricanes pack will be looking to do on Friday, even if the weather conditions are forecast to be wet.