Kirwan hopes Boric's progress applies across the squad as they face the Chiefs.

It was a start, 30 minutes about Anthony Boric conquering his uncertainty.

Half an hour of dealing with the physical assault of Super 15 rugby and encouraging his brain to get on the same wavelength.

In the aftermath, the former All Black lock agreed his weekend cameo against the Waratahs had been a significant step in his rehabilitation after surgery to repair disc damage in his neck.

Thoughts about his injury are never far away as Boric gets regular dollops of advice about the merits of his return to the rugby arena. The hitout in Sydney was a big marker.


"It was huge to get through that game," Boric admitted, "and it feels good today and I hope it will stay settled during the week.

"You can't help but think how it is, how it will hold up or how it will be with consistent game time each week.

"From where I am now, to going back to the start is a huge difference mentally. I hope the next four games will continue that progression."

Coach John Kirwan hopes that applies across his squad as he surveys the Blues' slump since opening the tournament with two victories.

He will be without senior tighthead prop Charlie Faumuina for at least six perhaps eight weeks because of his "serious calf tear" while former skipper Keven Mealamu is likely to be rested until the match with the Highlanders.

Kirwan felt the Blues lost in Sydney instead of being beaten by the Waratahs. "It is the type of football game we need to learn how to win," he said.

There were no thoughts the Blues were in a slump like last season.

"We have just got to mature and get excited as we were in our first few games."

That had to start on Saturday against the Chiefs who had shown great resilience to win their last match after returning from the wearying trip to Africa.

The Blues had not played how they wanted to for the last few matches and to do that they needed much better patience and ball retention. Those factors were all part of their rugby education. Captain Ali Williams' wife and Rene Ranger's partner were due to give birth next week and there were selection contingency plans if those deliveries occurred this weekend.

Williams was subbed after 50 minutes at the weekend by Boric, who admitted he was blowing in his first appearance this season.

"The neck felt pretty good, I made a few tackles and got around the park so it was a big confidence booster," he said.

Getting back into action felt normal although he thought he was only going to be asked to play the last quarter.

The tough part was feeling the game ebb away as the Waratahs put the Blues under longer periods of defensive pressure.

Both teams make lots of mistakes in contact and if the Blues had matched the sustained heat they built to create Chris Noakes' try, they would have been difficult to hold. Instead they were discovering the realities of a tough series.

"It is a good lesson about what this tournament is like, there is no easy game," said Boric.