With three defeats in three matches and a strange inability to score tries recently, the Hurricanes need to re-discover their attacking mojo.

Fortunately for them, they have first-five Beauden Barrett, World Rugby's player of the year in 2017, returning from his concussion and they are playing the Blues, who last beat a New Zealand team in 2016.

The Blues are also conceding 3.7 tries per match this season, a damning statistic which suggests Barrett and company will get plenty of opportunities to cross the tryline and run themselves into form before a potentially far tougher test in their final round-robin match of the season against the Chiefs in Hamilton.

At the moment they are threaten to limp, rather than charge, into the playoffs and that has to change quickly.


The Blues would seem to present an ideal opposition, then. The Hurricanes are overwhelming favourites to break their drought and a happy byproduct would be a reassuring attacking performance from No10 Barrett, who missed last weekend's defeat to the Brumbies in Canberra but who was too easily contained in his team's previous defeats to the Crusaders and Highlanders, both away.

The Hurricanes' pack needs to take responsibility for their poor nights in Christchurch, Dunedin and Canberra, but Barrett, who was good for the All Blacks in their first test victory over France at Eden Park, and played only 12 minutes of the second test at Westpac Stadium before his notorious mid-air collision with Benjamin Fall, has to take charge of a reshuffled backline against the Blues because Chris Boyd's men are creaking a little.

The dropping of wing Ben Lam, the competition's highest try scorer this season with 14 in 14 matches, is a sign that something isn't right with the Hurricanes' attack and, for them to flourish against the Blues, Barrett has to get the ball in his hands and ask questions of the visiting defence.

Against the Crusaders, Barrett managed only 40m with the ball. A week later in perfect conditions under the roof in Dunedin he got to 54m.

But for all that, and the need for the Hurricanes to find a little magic, Barrett doesn't have to search for top hats and rabbits, he just needs to play to his strengths and find his rhythm, but sooner rather than later.

With little brother Jordie at fullback, Nehe Milner-Skudder on the right wing, Julian Savea back on his preferred left side and Ngani Laumape and Wes Goosen in the midfield, the Hurricanes have the personnel to cut most defences to shreds. They just have to be directed in the right areas.

"All I can focus on is playing well for this team," Barrett said this week. "Us leaders have to do that, we have to perform well out on the field and if we can do that everyone else will follow."

The equation for the Hurricanes is simple. Beat the Blues, well out of the playoffs mix, and the ominous looking Chiefs, currently fifth, and they will secure a quarter-final at Westpac Stadium. A failure to do that and their destiny is in the hands of others.


"It's not easy watching," said Barrett of last weekend's bumbling effort against the Brumbies. "I become an armchair critic like the rest of us. The boys will be hurting but it's good to be back home and we're excited about this week."

To get the day's top sports stories in your inbox, sign up to our newsletter here