The Blues will blow people away this year.

If not always on the scoreboard, then for the promise in store. I can't wait for the Blues revival, although the competition itself has the usual humdrum air to it.

If only Super Rugby was a vibrant, legitimate professional competition, one that New Zealand Rugby treated with enthusiasm and respect.

Super Rugby is a dog. The lack of fanfare and drama — with kickoff a week away — is testament to that. The Secret Society is safe.


The TV advertisements are suitably bizarre, featuring a man (it's Brendon McCullum, a cricketer quite naturally) in a darkened room muttering something incomprehensible, while we are told "Raise the Stakes". Huh?

McCullum, cast as a shadowy figure, actually looks unenthused, which is a legitimate feeling, but not normally something used for sports promotions.

Maybe he knows the Blues will come right long before the competition he's supposed to be promoting does.

But on with the good news (for Blues fans).

It's a long time since they've seen this sort of light at the end of the tunnel.

In a nutshell, a new confidence in the Blues is down to the presence of Leon MacDonald, Tom Coventry, John Hart.

The Blues campaign opens on Saturday night against the magnificent Crusaders, the champions who have set unbelievable standards for so long.

While Scott Robertson has added a new charm and attacking thrust to what the Crusaders do, the essence of their success remains.


Everyone is clear on their job, everyone has faith.

New coaches MacDonald, a Crusaders icon, and Waikato strongman and former Chiefs assistant Coventry will bring those attitudes to the Blues, at last.

Dave Rennie and now Robertson have shown how quickly titles can be won by new coaches, but there are a couple of significant holes that will probably prevent the Blues from prevailing this year. Chief among them is the lack of an established first five-eighths.

But the appointment of MacDonald and Coventry is still a seismic shift, and the way hopeless Tana Umaga was shunted into a corner shows the Blues mean business.

Don't discount the importance of new Blues board member and ex-All Black coach Hart.

Few have experienced the sporting ups and downs like Hart, the magic man who suffered after the 1991 World Cup failure.

To anyone with a wide interest in the Auckland footy codes he is a revered figure, pivotal as coach to the 1980s rugby renaissance and the key administration figure in turning the Warriors around nearly a decade ago.

Hart was not only a mentor to coach Ivan Cleary, as the NRL failures made a rare grand final appearance, but a clever operator in allowing the club's strengths to circumnavigate the weaknesses shall we say.

There are few in world sport who have operated on as many levels as the former Auckland halfback and corporate figure.

And anyone doubting Hart's communication ability should read his recent dissection of New Zealand rugby. You may disagree with some of his arguments or analysis, but the clarity of thought shines in a sport almost devoid of free thinking.

Hart is not only his own man, but he will be a coach's administrator.

In fairness to Umaga, he may not have always got quality support. Hart, with exceptional hands-on experience, will make sure MacDonald and Coventry do.

The Blues are a sleeping behemoth who will be a laughing stock no more.

The one big concern, to me, is whether the MacDonald-Coventry partnership lasts long enough to establish the new era.

Coventry is, by all accounts, a very strong character and someone who will want to be a head coach. He will get very tempting offers.

Apart from that, game on.

A great barometer will be the form of the Blues power forwards Patrick Tuipulotu and Akira Ioane. Coventry's iron will should bring out the best in them, the benefits twofold.

With overseas money picking away at top New Zealand players, one method of keeping the best players in town is to turn them into regular All Blacks.