The Blues are in the rare position of being the only New Zealand Super Rugby team to have won last weekend and will go into Saturday's match against the Crusaders with renewed belief they can achieve something special in Christchurch.

Their 23-8 bonus-point victory over the Chiefs at Eden Park on Saturday was the Blues' first win over the Chiefs since 2011, and — for the first time since 2013 — they were the only Kiwi team to claim a victory.

The win wasn't without its nervous moments, however, and they had a bit of luck in the form of disputable tries awarded to Melani Nanai and Ofa Tuungafasi, as well as one denied to Chiefs loose forward Pita Gus Sowakula, but it has pushed them up to 11th place and only three points from eighth, the final playoffs spot.

The Crusaders, meanwhile, must travel home from Cape Town and a controversial 19-19 draw against the Stormers. They arrive in Christchurch tonight and while they are used to performing in spite of recent long-haul travel, their week is far more challenging than that of the Blues.


If Leon MacDonald's men win their first away game against the Crusaders since 2004 — and the odds will be stacked against them, despite their latest success — they will have given their playoffs hopes a huge boost when they seemed all but over after their home defeat to the Hurricanes.

But such is the closeness of this year's competition, there will be a few more surprises to come.

Not many expected the Jaguares to beat the Hurricanes in Wellington, nor the Lions to rack up 38 points to beat the Highlanders in Johannesburg, but the Chiefs, now 14th, are almost certainly out of the playoffs race.

"It's a great competition," said MacDonald after his team's victory, their fifth of the season, after stressing the importance of responding to setbacks. He will, however, appreciate that few respond better than the Crusaders under Scott Robertson, and the red and blacks have an incredible home record to protect.

"We're looking forward to the Crusaders, obviously, but we'll deal with that [today]," the Blues coach said. "Every game is do-or-die for everybody, other than probably the Crusaders."

MacDonald will hope hooker James Parsons returns from a slight back injury — he was a late withdrawal against the Chiefs — as was prop Karl Tu'inukuafe, who was ill.

The Crusaders had some late drama, too, with No 8 Kieran Read pulling out due to a shoulder-neck injury suffered in training, and there was more during it, with television match official Marius Jonker effectively ruling out a try to Sevu Reece in the 75th minute due to a forward pass from Braydon Ennor.

The laws of the game allow for the ball to travel forward if it comes out of the passer's hands backwards but South African Jonker had other ideas.


"We're obviously disappointed," said Crusaders assistant coach Brad Mooar. "We liked the first decision [awarded try] better. At the same time, that's what the officials are there to do."

This was the Crusaders' second draw to a South African team in three rounds but the positive news for them is that they banked seven competition points in their two games in the Republic — they enjoyed a bonus-point win over the Bulls the previous weekend — and remain on track to finish the regular season in first place, as they have a nine-point lead over the Hurricanes.

The prospect of a long flight won't fill them with joy but a return to Christchurch's Rugby Park and another home game will.

"We have no doubt we'll be fired up and well prepared for the Blues on Saturday," Mooar said.

"Every team that's playing us is playing their grand final. It's a positive we've earned and we're respectful of that and we embrace it.

"As the tournament gets into its later stages, there's going to be desperation in the air every week. That's something we've felt right the way through.

"It's more about what we need to do to be ready to beat the Blues rather than being wary of an opponent. We respect all and fear none, and that won't be any different this week."