The Blues have sunk to a familiar place - last on the New Zealand conference table with little in the way of good news around the corner apart from the fact first-five Stephen Perofeta has been considered fit enough to travel with them to South Africa.

The earlier-than-expected recovery of Perofeta from a hand injury will give them a little comfort, but despite many predictions, the composure and accuracy of Bryn Gatland during the early part of the season have meant they haven't been caught short here.

In the main, Gatland has been accurate and sharp and his clearing for touch and kicking for goal almost exemplary.

A bigger issue is the absence of their skipper, Augustine Pulu, who limped from the Eden Park pitch during his team's disappointing 27-21 defeat to the Chiefs at Eden Park on Friday and didn't get on the flight to Johannesburg via Sydney.


Another is that their next opponents are the Lions, last year's losing finalists, who have won three from three this season.

The Lions will be looking forward to returning to their Ellis Park fortress, 1724m above sea level; the Blues, who appeared lethargic and at times clueless against the Chiefs after looking promising in their first match against the Highlanders, perhaps not so much.

And yet, while coach Tana Umaga had to choose his words carefully in the wake of his team's latest loss, the mood in the Blues camp probably won't be as bad as many will assume.

The siege mentality is one of the biggest cliches in sport, but Umaga must mine it for all it's worth. The criticism in Auckland and beyond will likely bring the team closer and the time together in planes and buses should too (this is, of course, conveniently overlooking the fact that the Blues' away record in recent years has been very poor).

A win over the Lions would be a big upset, but the expectation on the Blues will be so low that really they have almost nothing to lose.

Even without Pulu, it's not like they don't have the players or coaching staff to do it. Attitude and belief are the main deficiencies; issues which have caused them to lose concentration after halftime and leak 14 points in both their defeats to the Highlanders and Chiefs.

Umaga compared the attitude of the many young Chiefs' players brought in at the last moment - most notably 20-year-old Tiaan Falcon - with those of his players at Eden Park.

The casualty list for Colin Cooper's men was almost laughably bad, but they appeared to thrive on the adversity.

It's time for the Blues to do that, too. It's probably not too early to say their season depends on it.