It's cold comfort for the Blues that they at least gave themselves a chance to beat the Highlanders last week. It was the same when they played the Crusaders a few weeks ago and the Highlanders the first time in round three.

Cold comfort because while that may be a huge improvement, The Blues want to win, not get close. They want to capitalise on the pressure they exert and finish the job, which they failed to do in Dunedin and Christchurch.

Come the big moments, they lost their way. Their execution was sloppy. There was a touch of panic about their decision-making and they lost confidence in the final quarter of both games. And that is what they have spent the earlier part of this week doing - working out how they can compete more effectively in the final quarter.

"I wouldn't say it was just the last 20 minutes," says loose forward Steven Luatua in what the Blues have been looking at. "Throughout the game [against the Highlanders], we didn't build enough pressure. We let them off the hook a couple of times with offloads that went to ground.


"We were trying to force passes early on and again in that last phase. The boys have all the right intention but the execution didn't come off and those offloads, forcing the passes ... that is letting us down and we end up under our own sticks. We have to make better decisions under pressure and when the scoreboard's ticking over and we are up by heaps I guess you can afford a few mistakes.

"But in those critical moments, we are going astray and it showed on the weekend. We are creating opportunities ... one more pass ... one more ruck ... but we haven't been able to finish off. We are here to compete and we can sense that we are not far off."

Part of the confidence that the Blues aren't far away from coming good is driven not just by their performances to date, but also by the fact this weekend's game against the Hurricanes is their penultimate fixture against a fellow New Zealand side.

They are undefeated against South African and Australian opposition and while no one is suggesting they have an easy run from here, there is no doubt the Blues' position on the table is distorted by the fact they have mostly played against the best sides so far.

"It is definitely a lot tougher to play New Zealand teams," says Luatua. "New Zealand teams pose more threats. They are not really one dimensional. One week, they kick the ball heaps, the next, they might attack you in the middle. Whereas other teams, say for example South African teams except the Stormers of late, they are pretty forward-orientated. They maul, they scrum and they run it straight."

The challenge for the Blues this weekend is to ensure they compete for the 80 minutes and that they are clinical and ruthless with every half-chance they create.

"The New Zealand teams capitalise on mistakes and hurt you," says Luatua. "We don't want to discourage our boys to offload because it is often on, but we need to sort out the detail. To make sure we sight the target, that we are going forward. If we can get that right, there's no doubt we very much have the belief that we are well and truly in this competition.

"A couple of years back, we would have been happy with a win against the Force. But when we played them this year, we were pissed off we didn't take the bonus point. When we lost against the Highlanders maybe in the past we would have been content that we performed well. We know that we are not that far and that is quite exciting and frustrating."