It's all over for the Blues in 2016, already. Four games in and the new-look Blues look a lot like the old-look Blues, which is not a good thing, while the other New Zealand sides are springing to life.

If you can put the convoluted competition itself out of your mind, it was a cracking weekend of rugby with superb Highlanders v Waratahs and Chiefs v Jaguares matches. As for working out what the results mean in the overall scheme of things, have you got a spare couple of hours?

The game in Buenos Aires featured something new in Southern Hemisphere provincial rugby - a singing crowd.

The game in Christchurch also featured something new - a Crusaders team that didn't play like Owen Franks drew up the game plan. They had clever ball handling, verve and dash, although the Southern Kings tend to do that to opposing teams. The Hurricanes belted the Force.


Which made Saturday night's clash at a desolate Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane seem all the worse, a draw being a fair result as neither the Reds nor Blues deserved to win.

Once again, a Blues team built to smash its way through opponents failed to put a ding in the opposing defence when camped in sight of victory.

The Hurricanes held them out last week, and so did the underpowered Reds this time. Blues coach Tana Umaga, in a vote of no-confidence for his attack, responded by hoisting the white flag on fulltime, taking the easy penalty for a draw.

I've heard rumours that this decision was still a point of animated discussion at the team breakfast yesterday morning, with good reason. The Blues need a launching pad, and a draw in Brisbane doesn't qualify.

It is a doomsday result for the Blues. The Reds are in disarray. Most of the players are barely household names in their own street. Their coach has just been sacked, and three test forwards - prop-captain James Slipper, World Cup lock Kane Douglas and turnover merchant Liam Gill - are sidelined.

Reading between some of the preview lines last week, the Blues were on a five-point collection mission. Apparently.

The Blues are creaking with problems. They are going sideways. A lack of dexterity is at the heart of their problems on attack and defence. Making matters far worse, Jerome Kaino, the captain who holds this team together, damaged his shoulder and is out for a month.

The ball handling from the other New Zealand sides was exceptional. My team of the week, without a doubt, are the Chiefs. Beating that powerful Jaguares line-up in the first Super Rugby match hosted by Argentina was no mean feat.


The Chiefs forwards have been hit hard by injuries since pre-season but are undaunted. The ball movement in tight spaces was sensational when they needed tries.

The Buenos Aires crowd was in fine voice as the Jaguares made a comeback, but as TV commentator Tony Johnson put it so well, there was an "eruption of silence" when the Chiefs returned fire.

Brad Weber, Damian McKenzie, Charlie Ngatai, James Lowe - the talent pool in New Zealand is staggering and all those players must be test candidates.

The Blues don't have a hope in hell of playing like that. Umaga held his tongue last week but the strain is starting to show - he tried to blame the referee in Brisbane, that final penalty not being enough in Umaga's eyes to redress the alleged previous imbalance.

Yes, dammed if you do, and dammed if you don't, as deposed England World Cup captain Chris Robshaw might claim when it comes to deciding whether to shoot for a draw or play for a win. To my mind, though, Umaga should have gone for that winning try.