For long-suffering Blues followers 2018 is shaping as the year they find the answer to a problem that has haunted them for 13 years.

They aren't going to win Super Rugby - they might not even make the playoffs or win as many as half their games this year - but they are going to find in Stephen Perofeta, the high-quality first-five for which they have endlessly searched since Carlos Spencer left the club in 2005.

For a fan base conditioned to disappointment and false hope, grandiose claims about a first-five star in the making are easily dismissed. So many have come since Spencer and before Perofeta and all have failed to be what they initially promised.

The Blues No 10 jersey has been cursed - even good players such as former All Black Nick Evans have stuck it on and suddenly played with all the vision of a bag of hammers.


The situation has appeared hopeless for so long that on the eve of the new season starting, scepticism will remain high about the true potential of Perofeta.

Which is understandable. Perofeta, who was signed by the Blues last year, has just 55 minutes of Super Rugby experience.

It's a big ask for everyone to pin their hopes on a 20-year-old, who despite having two campaigns with Taranaki behind him, remains virtually unknown.

But Perofeta is known by those who need to know and that includes the All Blacks selectors.

Right now they would have Perofeta sitting fourth in their national pecking order, behind Beauden Barrett, Damian McKenzie and Richie Mo'ounga. By June it might be Perofeta has jumped to third, or even higher.

That might seem a touch meteoric but these are unusual times. The current back-up No 10, Lima Sopoaga is heading offshore, and with just 18 months before the next World Cup, the All Blacks are up against the clock as they try to develop alternative options.

They want three No 10s in their World Cup mix and Perofeta, is, as the Police might say, a person of significant interest in regard to filling one of those spots.

What the All Blacks and Blues coach Tana Umaga like about Perofeta is that he is in possession of an even temperament that enables him to respond well to pressure.

That's a big part of the deal these days when it comes to picking first-fives: no one wants skittery, flighty types who get all hung up about mistakes they make or seemingly forget the gameplan within minutes of leaving the changing sheds.

Perofeta may be young, but he's composed and mentally together - and because of that, he's trusted, which was evidenced by the willingness of the Blues to pick him to start - his first game for the club - against the British & Irish Lions last year.

He justified the selection with a performance that had inevitable rough patches given his lack of experience and the enormity of the occasion but also with a couple of magical touches - most memorably the way he attacked the line before throwing an enormous, perfect pass to set up Rieko Ioane for the first try.

That one act piqued the All Blacks' coaches interest. They want a No 10 with the basic skills to be comfortable playing on the gainline and with the confidence to attack it.

They also want their tactical director to be resilient and if Perofeta can thrive at the Blues in the next 12 weeks, he'll have proven beyond doubt he has quite a stunning depth of character.