Super Rugby sides across New Zealand have returned to training ahead of the 2021 campaign, kicking off their pre-seasons in gut-busting fashion.
Looking to build on their second-place finish in Super Rugby Aotearoa last year, the Blues congregated at their Alexandra Park training base on Thursday and were put through their paces with their annual Bronco test that takes place on the first day of each pre-season.
It was that fitness drill that saw All Blacks star Beauden Barrett's name dominate headlines seven months ago as he crushed the Auckland franchise's test record upon return to training from last year's Covid-19 lockdown.
The test, which is used as a measurement of aerobic endurance, sees players run shuttles of 20 metres, 40 metres and 60 metres five times over as quickly as possible.
Barrett produced one of the quickest Bronco times seen by a professional rugby player in New Zealand, completing the 1.2km test in 4min 12sec.
By comparison, former All Blacks halfback Andy Ellis holds the Crusaders Bronco record with a time of 4min 23sec, while ex-All Blacks captain Richie McCaw is the Christchurch side's loose forward record-holder at 4min 30sec.
Others such as Jordie Barrett of the Hurricanes and Damian McKenzie of the Chiefs are believed to have clocked times a little over 4min 20sec last year, but one Blues player went close to claiming Beauden's title as Bronco king earlier this week.
With Barrett missing due to sabbatical commitments in Japan, halfback Jonathan Ruru was crowned the Blues' Bronco champion this year with a sizzling time of 4min 16sec, finishing just four seconds shy of the club's record.
The impressive feat comes after Ruru finished last year's Bronco test just two seconds behind Barrett to post a time of 4min 14sec, two seconds faster than this season's effort.
"Listen to the trainers and just run," Ruru said in a video posted to the Blues' social media channels when asked what the secret behind his rapid time was.
"You're always sketched about coming into a Bronco, especially after Christmas and New Years. I think most of the boys hit their targets, which is good, so good start for the year."
While it wasn't revealed how the majority of the other Blues players fared, hooker Kurt Eklund took to the camera to share his Bronco time of 4min 56sec.
"We're going home happy today, people," he said after having targeted a time of under five minutes earlier in the video.
This story originally appeared on Rugbypass.com and was published with permission.