The Blues have the ability, personnel and balance to be a very good side, as they showed in their narrow loss to the Hurricanes.

But they are never going to win the competition, if they don't develop the character and leadership required to consistently beat the other Kiwi teams.

Saturday night was a cracking contest at Eden Park, with good skills and intensity on display, but the Blues' inability to maximise their chances cost them.

And that's a position they've been in plenty of times before.


The stats are really starting to mount against this Blues team - they've won only one of their last 10 home games against New Zealand opposition and their away record is even worse.

That's an incredibly worrying trend and there's no way the Blues can challenge for the Super Rugby title, if they can't even beat the Kiwi franchises at Eden Park.

It's a huge concern, but it's not as if the Blues aren't competitive. They have just shown a real lack of the mental qualities needed to win big moments in tight matches.

Look at the Hurricanes - that wasn't their best performance, but it was full of heart and resolve when under pressure. That's exactly what the Blues were missing and it's typical of what has hurt them all season.

Fundamentally, that's the only thing the Blues are lacking. They have skills across the board, their forward pack is tough enough and their set piece has been good, but they don't have that character the other Kiwi sides possess.

The Blues teams that were successful in the early days of Super Rugby had players such as Sean Fitzpatrick and the Brooke brothers, players who didn't give in and were great leaders. This Blues team need to find those qualities to get themselves into a good mental place.

Because, in these clashes with New Zealand teams, they're not getting walloped. They just lack the mental aptitude when games are there to be grabbed or when they need to hang on to leads.

At the moment, the Blues always come out on the receiving end of matches that are in the balance. They haven't fixed it in four years - why not?

Elsewhere this weekend, it was pleasing to see some quality in this competition, outside of the New Zealand derbies. The game between the Lions and the Stormers had intensity, physicality and skill, and featured two teams who should be genuine challengers for the title.

The key for them, though, is to accumulate enough points to not only top their conferences, but earn the home semifinals they need to truly contend, considering the biggest obstacle in Super Rugby is coming to New Zealand and trying to win in the playoffs.

It's almost impossible.

If they want to avoid that fate, the next little period is crucial. The Stormers are on their way to New Zealand to face the Crusaders this weekend, while the Lions are looking at a three-match trip to Australia.

Both will want to pick up enough points on the road to avoid having to travel again in the playoffs, because, as we saw last year when the Lions threw away the chance for top spot by resting players and had to head to Wellington for the final, home advantage could determine the champion.