Auckland's short-term loss will hopefully be the Blues' long-term gain.
Loose forward Luke Braid will see out the Blues' season and then go under the knife, possibly on both his shoulders, which have troubled him the last two years. The operations will rule him out of Auckland's ITM Cup campaign, as it did for Gareth Anscombe in 2013.
"It had got to the point where it was hurting more frequently," Braid said. "I got a scan which showed they weren't the best and due for a bit of a clean-up. I just thought that being 25 and halfway through my career ... I hadn't had any major surgeries before. I've done pretty well to get to this point."
The pain he feels has not had any noticeable impact on his solid tackling, though he did miss a couple of games for the Blues before returning just before the June hiatus. He was not too perturbed about being passed over again for the All Blacks, who called up Matt Todd, who had not played in several weeks, as cover for Sam Cane.
"I needed that break, but I definitely still have a huge desire to try to make the All Blacks. I'll have the surgery, have six months off and get back for Super Rugby. That gives me time to have a rest mentally and get my body a bit bigger."
Auckland is not short of quality loose forwards, and Braid was quick to endorse the credentials of his University clubmate Sean Polwart, who operated in tandem with Braid on occasion during the 2013 ITM Cup. Polwart has just been called into the Chiefs as cover.
"Sean is an awesome player and great guy. He's good enough to play Super Rugby and it would be good for him to have a full season and then get picked up by a franchise if it's not here [at the Blues]," Braid said.
The Blues are coming off a productive three weeks, where they defeated the NZ Barbarians 48-21 in Whangarei and they won the inaugural world club 10s in Singapore. Skipper Piri Weepu and Jackson Willison were to the fore in the 10s tournament on the weekend, and they will link up with the squad in Perth later in the week for the Force clash on Saturday.
Francis Saili is fit and ready for selection and Charles Piutau is slated for a July 5 return against the Crusaders. First-five Simon Hickey, who injured his ankle during the JWC, is a chance for the July 11 Chiefs game. All Blacks such as Patrick Tuipulotu and Steven Luatua, who saw little or no game time against England, will be bursting out of their skins to play, while wing Tevita Li is coming off a sparkling JWC campaign.
It would take something akin to a rugby miracle for the Blues to qualify for the playoffs for the first time since 2011, with three bonus points wins the most they can hope for.