Coaches will say every game is a big one. The next encounter is always the most important, according to them.

In the case of the Blues, that's actually true this week. Their season won't be defined by what happens in Dunedin against the Highlanders, but it will be significantly affected.

This is a huge game for the Blues on multiple fronts. The first is that they need a breakthrough away win.

Their record outside of Auckland since 2013 has been appalling. Between 2013 and 2015 they won just twice away from home. Last year, they managed a draw with the Reds in Brisbane and beat the Kings and Force on the road.


And while they opened this campaign with a crushing victory over the Rebels in Melbourne, what the Blues desperately need is a New Zealand scalp outside of Eden Park.

The Blues haven't managed that since they beat the Hurricanes four years ago in what was the first game of former coach John Kirwan's tenure.

Knocking over the competition easy beats is not illustrative of much but beating one of the genuine contenders on their own patch - that will say something, mean plenty to the players in terms of building their confidence and convincing them they are on the right track.

This isn't to be underestimated. The Blues have talent, they have desire, they have motivation but what they maybe lack is genuine belief. For too long, they have meekly surrendered to their fellow Kiwi opposition away from Eden Park.

Typically they have simply failed to offer anything. But in their last away encounter against a New Zealand side, they played out of their skin in the first half, only to tighten up in the second and allow the Crusaders to mount a stunning comeback.

The process may have been different but the outcome wasn't and as much as the Blues players appear to be resigned to losing on the road, so is everyone else.

That was the most galling part of their loss in Christchurch - it didn't generate any fan dissent, highlighting perhaps that most followers expected the worst.

Expectation needs to be restored and a new sense of optimism fostered. There's no quick way of doing that, but there is a way at least to start the process, which is that the Blues need to experience a victory in New Zealand somewhere other than in Auckland.

That should go some way towards generating the belief that seems to be missing.

The added bonus of beating the Highlanders would be the immediate impact it would have on the table. Victory this weekend would put a little daylight between the Blues and Highlanders - solidify them in fourth place.

And the way things are tracking in the other conferences, New Zealand's fourth-placed side will most likely have enough points to pick up a wild card to the playoffs.

Getting themselves off the bottom will be new territory for the Blues.

For the past few years, they have been quite proprietorial about that fifth position - overly keen, it has seemed, about taking that spot early and committing themselves to staying there.

To be something other than the lowest ranked team in New Zealand would be invigorating and perhaps rejuvenating and who knows, it could be the start of them finally believing they can compete at this level.