Patrick Tuipulotu was impossible to miss at Blues training on Monday but the All Blacks lock could remain sidelined this week which would pave the way for Tom Robinson to retain the captaincy as Sky Super Rugby Aotearoa approaches the business end of the season.
Tuipulotu and Akira Ioane returned from the Blues' second bye with matching fluorescent blue hair that stood out like the police breaking up a rave during a physical training session to start the week.
"It seems like a new colour every week," Blues lock Josh Goodhue said of his team-mates. "You've just got to accept it for what it is. They're just trying to outdo Tom Robinson and Finlay Christie for the two best hair styles in the team."
While Ioane's fresh lid will catch the eye, probably off the bench again, when the Blues venture to Dunedin on Friday night, Tuipulotu may remain in the stands after taking no part in training as he navigates a niggly shoulder injury that ruled him out of the patchy win over the Hurricanes at Eden Park 10 days ago.
Robinson was a somewhat surprising choice to replace Tuipulotu as skipper for that match, given he had been coming off the bench prior, but he immediately repaid Leon MacDonald's faith with timely lineout steals and typically relentless work-rate from the starting blindside role to help inspire a strong second half against the Hurricanes.
The 26-year-old Northland loose forward-lock is a refreshing character. He savoured his bye week by escaping on a road trip to surf the Coromandel in a van with his dog, and also owns shares in a humble sail boat with Highlanders utility Michael Collins, who spent three seasons with the Blues before returning south last year.
Robinson, known as Sauce to friends and teammates, loves to crack a gag but he's also the one consistently bringing the energy and niggle to trainings to spark the odd off the ball flare up.
As Goodhue explains when it comes time to lock horns, Robinson comes into his own.
"He leads by example, that's the main thing," Goodhue said. "He's a bloody hard worker and his messaging on the field is really good. He's the type of guy you can have a joke with but when it's time to work he works.
"We've been playing against each other since we were seven. Seeing his pre-game speech I had to bite my lip a little bit because I'd never seen him so serious, but for everyone else he did really well."
Should Tuipulotu again be ruled out, Goodhue is ready to assume responsibility alongside fellow locks Sam Darry and Gerard Cowley-Tuioti.
"I definitely have to take a bit more leadership around the lineout and around the field in general," Goodhue said. "We've got confidence in all the boys but Patty is a massive loss. We've got to accept that and step up."
Robinson is, likewise, keen to continue leading the team in Tuiputlotu's absence and may be more prepared after MacDonald caught him off-guard by asking him to take on the role two minutes before a team meeting.
"I hadn't been starting so I was wondering about that and then he comes up to me and asks if I was sweet to be captain," Robinson said.
"It depends on Patty and how he's going. If he plays it will be awesome to have him back. He's an awesome leader for us but, if not, I'm happy to do the job again and go two-from-two.
"We probably had our best training we've had today. There's a real edge about us this week which is exciting considering it's only Monday. We've got to bring that again throughout the week."
With three matches remaining in the regular Aotearoa season the Blues sit eight points adrift of the Crusaders. The Chiefs, after their three-match unbeaten run, are two more points back and well in the hunt.
To have any hope of hosting the inaugural final the Blues must win every remaining game and hope the Crusaders, who have struggled in their past two outings, slip up.
"It would be awesome to get a home final and to do that we're going to have to win every week," Goodhue said. "That's been the main messaging."
Following two golden-point matches that were decided by a penalty and drop goal last weekend the Blues leadership group have discussed tactics needed to prevail in the extra time period.
Tweaks such as a gold-point try could make the additional time more compelling, rather than teams playing for penalties or attempting a flurry of drop goals, but Goodhue gave his blessing for the concept.
"I really like the idea – I think it's great for the game and the spectators especially. If there was a way to make it fairer around who gets the ball first and maybe if they score off the first play the other team gets the opportunity to respond that would be good."