McAlisters gonna miss the semi, so its a Sharks Home Final, see ya all when the Tri Nations Start
The Blues turned around in Sydney and headed back to South Africa today without the player who had a key hand in steering them into the Super 14 rugby semifinals.
SUPER 14 STANDINGS
All Black Luke McAlister, who was making his first appearance after breaking a cheek bone a month ago, strained a hamstring in the 33-6 win over the Western Force in Perth on Friday night.
The second five-eighth will have treatment in Auckland, with team officials hopeful he will fit for the final if the Blues get past top qualifiers the Sharks in Durban next weekend.
McAlister's kicking and the option he gave as an additional playmaker were to the fore as the Blues beat the Force to make the playoffs for the first time in four years.
Assistant coach Joe Schmidt said it was disappointing to be without someone with McAlister's influence for the semifinal.
"Luke may be okay if we get one more week out of this tournament," he said.
"He was really good coming back in. It would have been great to have him. He's a bit of an essential part of our game, but there's some good guys within the squad who will no doubt step up."
The Blues had travelled from Perth to Sydney to await their next destination as the make-up of the top four was confirmed by matches in South Africa early this morning.
Having been in the republic before going to Western Australian, they had hoped to continue their journey home by being drawn with the Crusaders.
Instead, the Crusaders are also off to South Africa, to take on the Bulls in Pretoria, with both semifinals being scheduled for Sunday morning (NZT).
Schmidt said having to undertake another 14-hour flight was not ideal preparation, but it was also "just part of the job".
"The players are reasonably upbeat," he said.
"It's probably not great timing for us having been on the road for the past three weeks and being half-way home.
"But it's the first time we've finished in the top four for a while and we want to give it our best shot, so there's more positives than negatives."
The Sharks beat the Blues 32-25 at Auckland's North Stadium last month in a bruising encounter that began a three-match losing streak for the then competition leaders.
But the home side felt hard done by with two of the opposition tries, while the third one was the result of an error.
Schmidt doubted the Blues would make any significant changes in game plan for the match at Absa Stadium.
"The Sharks played pretty well that night, but we also felt they didn't have to work too hard to create the tries they got," he said.
"A couple of the calls went their way for the first two and the one in the second half was a charge down. I'm not sure we will go too far away from how we tried to played through the season." [/b]