The Blues are optimistic they can still make the Super Rugby playoffs if they win their remaining three regular season matches, starting with the Bulls at Eden Park on Friday.
Leon MacDonald's men are in 13th place and are four competition points outside the top eight.
However, while they have played one fewer game than the Highlanders and Chiefs, two teams above them on the table, they will have to beat the seventh-placed Bulls without midfielder Sonny Bill Williams and prop Karl Tu'inukuafe.
Williams trained today with the team following his knee surgery which has kept him out of the last seven matches and should be available to play next week's away game against the Reds.
His last match was against the Stormers at Eden Park – he injured his right knee providing the offload for Otere Black's first try at this level – and given Williams' future is still very much up in the air, that may have been his last home game for the Blues.
"We're trying to build his load back up," MacDonald said of Williams. "You can't go from minimal to a lot very quickly, especially when coming back from the injury he's had. His load this week has been increased to what would be a typical game week and if he can tolerate that he'll be good to go next week."
Fellow All Black Tu'inukuafe has been laid low by a virus for the past fortnight. In further bad news, Dalton Papalii, originally named to start at No 8, was withdrawn due to lingering concussion symptoms. Akira Ioane, who was to have a bench role, will start, with Hoskins Sotutu brought on to the bench.
MacDonald is not surprisingly remaining positive that his side can play finals rugby this season – his first for the Blues.
It wouldn't be a huge shock if the Blues beat the Bulls, who lost to the Brumbies in Canberra last weekend – but two large barriers to his side progressing in the competition are the away fixtures against the Reds and Hurricanes.
The latter in particular will be a difficult assignment for a team who last won a New Zealand derby game away from home in February, 2013. The Hurricanes were the opposition that night.
"We understand the importance of the [Bulls] game and the consequences if we don't get the result," MacDonald said.
Skipper Blake Gibson was a little more direct. "It's pretty obvious we need to win the next three games. We know that and it starts this week," Gibson said.
"We're confident in our ability. It's just executing those little moments. We were pretty good in most areas last weekend [in loss to Crusaders in Christchurch], it was just executing the kicking game in the wet."
Loose forward Ioane is one of the ironmen of the Blues of the past couple of years and was due for a little rest. Instead, due to Papalii's injury, this will be his 32nd consecutive start.
"He's played nearly every minute of the competition and he's barely missed a training as well," MacDonald said. "Like any job, if you spend long hours in the office you need a little bit of a refresh, whether it's just to walk away for a day or so. We've tried to manage Aki this week. Because of the injury he'll start again but hopefully he's been able to take a bit of a back seat this week."
Blues team to play the Bulls at Eden Park on Friday night, kick-off 7.35pm: 15. Melani Nanai, 14. Caleb Clarke, 13. TJ Faiane, 12. Ma'a Nonu, 11. Rieko Ioane, 10. Harry Plummer, 9. Jonathan Ruru, 8. Akira Ioane, 7. Blake Gibson (c), 6. Tom Robinson, 5. Scott Scrafton, 4. Patrick Tuipulotu, 3. Ofa Tuungafasi, 2. James Parsons, 1. Alex Hodgman.
Reserves: 16. Leni Apisai, 17. Lua Li, 18. Marcel Renata, 19. Gerard Cowley-Tuioti, 20. Hoskins Sotutu, 21. Augustine Pulu, 22. Otere Black, 23. Tanielu Tele'a.