Tomorrow's match against the Waratahs at Eden Park is not only an opportunity for the Blues to finish their season on the right note, it is also a chance for Jerome Kaino to continue his try-scoring form.
The No 8 has four tries in two matches, his double against the Brumbies last weekend coming after a brace the week before in a loss to the Hurricanes.
Kaino has six tries in 12 matches this season, and is playing with a verve and freedom like that of his rejuvenated team. The 33-year-old veteran of 69 tests relinquished the captaincy to hooker James Parsons in April following a month out with a shoulder injury, but said little had changed for him in terms of his on-field leadership role.
"I didn't mind the leadership role, but obviously with James, he's a natural leader," Kaino said. "He does it really well and the role fits him like a glove. Out there I still feel I have a leadership role with the team. Not having the captaincy does give you a bit of freedom before the game, you don't have to worry about other things, you can just focus on your own game."
Kaino, Kara Pryor and Steven Luatua face a difficult task against a big Waratahs pack containing giant lock Will Skelton, but their recent form suggests they can contain the Sydneysiders. With Pryor keeping Blake Gibson on the reserves bench, the competition among loose forwards is high and will get higher still next year with Akira Iaoane back in the mix after his sevens commitments.
"It's good for our loose forward ranks, guys putting pressure on each other to fight for that starting postion," Kaino said. "Kara has always been knocking on the door, he's just needed an opportunity and he's taken it with both hands. He and Steven have been leading on the energy side of things - leading by example and it's been great for us.
"The Waratahs are a big side. They've got some big ball carriers and threats and Izzy at the back isn't small either. Physically we've got to be on point to stop that. The Waratahs do base their game on physicality."
The Blues could do worse than follow the example of the Hurricanes, who physically bullied the Waratahs in their victory last weekend. A victory would be their eighth of the season, a good result overall for Tana Umaga's first year in charge.
"The work that the coaches have put in is finally clicking with the lads," Kaino said. "The boys put in a lot of work during the June break as well. Leading into that we put in a good performance against the Crusaders. It's good that there has been a flow-on effect - I think it was a combination of having the time together and also having the confidence that our game works.
"I saw the confidence in the normally quieter guys. They were chirping up, straight away I knew there had been a lot of clarity work and skill execution work done. You can see it at trainings.
"There's still a lot for us to achieve in this game, to show our supporters that we are heading in the right direction and that we deserve to be in those playoffs. For us to put in another good performance sets us up for next year and also to retain that support and show people in our region that we're a team on the up."