It was the late, great Yogi Berra, the former Yankees catcher and coach, who said: "If you don't know where you are going, you'll end up someplace else".

This seems like an apt place to start when writing about the Blues these days. And it's probably even more appropriate given they will run on to Eden Park tomorrow night against the Highlanders trying to overturn an extraordinarily poor run against New Zealand teams.

The Blues haven't beaten a Kiwi team since February 26, 2016. It was a round one match, the first of Tana Umaga's reign as head coach, and the opponents were the Highlanders.

The first-half try scored by Blake Gibson, who ran over the top of Highlanders fullback Ben Smith, was one of Gibson's finest rugby moments (the normally impeccable Smith can be excused the occasional mistake). Gibson, fully fit again after long-term injury issues, will lead the Blues at Eden Park.


So the signs are… good? Who knows? After their round one loss to the Crusaders this year, the Blues have gone 20 matches without beating a New Zealand team. The closest they have come was in their final derby match of 2017 when they drew 16-all at home against the Chiefs.

If this run of failure sounds like a curse, that's because it is one. The Blues should have beaten the Crusaders last month, but a couple of kickable shots at goal sailed wide and the defending champions, who have lost only three matches in total under Scott Robertson in a little over two years, sailed serenely on.

Have the Blues forgotten how to win the difficult ones? The answer to that would have to be yes because they don't get any more difficult in Super Rugby than matches against the Crusaders, Hurricanes, Chiefs and Highlanders.

In Akira Ioane and his brother Rieko, the Blues have two of the most dangerous ball runners in the competition but they can't do it all themselves. The team's collective decision-making and a lack of attention to detail is usually their main failing (and conversely, the Crusaders' greatest strength). If this isn't right they will struggle again against the Highlanders.

Rieko (left) and Akira Ioane will be key for the Blues. Photo / Photosport
Rieko (left) and Akira Ioane will be key for the Blues. Photo / Photosport

One of the biggest struggles under former coach Tana Umaga – and before that John Kirwan – was in aligning a game plan that suits the supremely talented individuals within their squad. Neither could do it and one win from four matches suggests that has continued to a certain extent under new head coach Leon MacDonald and his assistant Tom Coventry.

The players could do worse than to take inspiration from loose forward Akira Ioane's consistency – at least in his ability to front up time and again. The 23-year-old's workrate has been criticised but his skill level and pace cannot be questioned and nor can his durability.

Ioane will make his 23rd consecutive start when he runs out for the Blues and when he starts he generally plays every minute. It's difficult to remember when he last left the field early (apart from a yellow card last year) and he almost single-handedly brought the Blues back into the game against the Crusaders.

"We're a team that is coming together under new coaching staff and also the way that we're trying to play the game," Coventry said this week. "It's been a little bit of learning curve for us but we're getting through it. The trainings are getting better and the stats in terms of the parts of the game that we're trying to improve are getting better. There are good signs."


It remains to be seen whether they know where they're going. A 21st failure will lend itself to another quote from you know who: "It's déjà vu all over again".