With only one competition point and no wins in two matches, the sense of optimism around the Blues this year must have nearly evaporated already.

Where to now for Leon MacDonald's men after their 26-7 defeat to the Sharks in Durban in which they didn't fire an attacking shot in the first half? A long flight to Buenos Aires to play the Jaguares in what will be a similarly physical challenge and if they don't improve significantly on their at-times lacklustre performance at Kings Park, another defeat is looming.

The Jaguares accounted for the Bulls in the Argentine capital this morning following heavy rain, a concept that will probably seem like heaven for the Blues after they struggled through the high humidity and temperatures of at least 30degC in Durban.

But while the heat would have been one factor in their sloppy start – they conceded three tries in the first half and launched only one attacking raid on the home side's territory – it can't and won't be used as an excuse.


The Sharks, who had travelled from Singapore after their win over the Sunwolves in round one, were sharper physically and mentally, and, worryingly, just looked more up for it.

As coach Leon MacDonald said afterwards, the Blues were much better in the second half when they threatened an upset with the score at 19-7 while lock Ruan Botha was sinbinned, and rightly so, for a cynical breakdown offence, but by then it was far too late.

"You can handle being beaten by a team that does exceptionally well, but when you play a big part in the loss through individual errors or structural errors it is hard to swallow," MacDonald said.

"The ball was sweaty and slippery – we didn't cope with it at all. In the heat some of our big men struggled to get around the park and we struggled to keep our attacking shape which meant we looked a bit disorganised at times as well."

They certainly did. The hope after MacDonald replaced Tana Umaga as head coach after another failure last season was that the Blues would find some consistency of performance and game structure but it appears that not a lot has changed.

They were good last weekend against the Crusaders at Eden Park and should have won but their regression to the same old bad habits after their long trip to South Africa is not a good sign.

Another blow is the loss of wing Caleb Clarke with a knee injury late in the week which saw the same back three of Rieko Ioane, Melani Nanai and Michael Collins take the field.

Clarke, who had enjoyed such a promising pre-season, is now facing two months on the sidelines and MacDonald is considering a replacement to travel to Buenos Aires. The long journey should allow them ample time to reflect on their shortcomings.


"We struggled to cope with the heat," MacDonald said. "We really battled in that first half and never got our game going. It was a gallant effort in the second half to try to claw it back but every time we felt we were making headway we fell short."

The Blues were far better after the break, with Nanai consistently dangerous and replacement wing Tanielu Tele'a, who scored a try on debut after Otere Black's under the posts was rubbed out by the television match official, looking promising.

Flanker Dalton Papalii produced an incredible workrate and skipper Patrick Tuipulotu had his moments before he left the field and handed the captaincy to Sonny Bill Williams, but the first quarter set the tone for this match and the predictability of the comments that followed.

The evidence after two rounds suggests the extent of MacDonald's challenge is clear; a revolution, or even a significant shift, appears unlikely to happen this year.

"We do feel it's not far away," MacDonald said. "There's a lot of confidence we can turn this around quickly. It's only round two and every team is going to lose a couple of games so hopefully we get ours of the way early and go on a winning streak."