The resurgent Blues, fourth on the Super Rugby table when the competition was cut short by the coronavirus six weeks ago, have been denied their chance of a first playoff place since 2011 but have quickly adopted a new goal: to win the all-Kiwi showdown if and when it starts.
In an interview with the Herald, Leon MacDonald said he and his fellow coaches were still waiting to hear from the Government on whether they can re-assemble at their Alexandra Park headquarters when the nation moves down to level 2, a change in status which won't happen until midnight on May 11 at the earliest.
"We're really hoping we'll get permission to get back together at level 2 and that would be ideal," he told the Herald. "We know we can get back together at level 1. If it doesn't happen, we have a plan for the longer term as well but fingers crossed it's level 2."
Should they get the green light then MacDonald said his players would probably need only three weeks of training before they would be ready for a game. There has been no official announcement about a revised competition but the common consensus in New Zealand anyway is it will feature the five Kiwi sides.
The threat Covid-19 has posed to lives and livelihoods everywhere puts sporting disappointments in the shade but few, apart from the Crusaders who were well in the mix for a fourth consecutive title, will rue the cancellation of the competition more than the Blues.
Of the Kiwi sides, only the Crusaders (third, with a game in hand) were above the Blues.
In MacDonald's second year in charge, and after many previous years of underachievement, they had just beaten the Lions at Eden Park for their fourth straight win when the rug was pulled from under them.
"We were disappointed at the time but one of the things you learn in rugby is that you can have disappointments in the weekends but you've really got to move forward quickly and start looking at your next opportunity and I think we've done that pretty well," MacDonald said.
"It's fuelled our fire to really push through this next period. We did talk about how the first half of the year would be lost if we didn't get the second part of the year right. That's been a big driver for us. We feel like we're making some good progress and we don't want to leave it there.
"If we play a New Zealand-wide competition which looks most likely, obviously the big goal is to try to win it. Our first goal at the start of the season was to play really well at home in front of our home fans and then the next evolution if we can start doing that well is to start consistently winning away as well. We were making some good gains - the important thing is to stay heading in the right direction."
One significant hurdle – to beat a New Zealand team away from home – was achieved in Wellington on March 7 when the Blues deservedly beat the Hurricanes 24-15 with the assistance of the home side, who lost prop Tyrel Lomax to a red card six minutes after halftime and both Vaea Fifita and Jordie Barrett to the sinbin in the final 12 minutes.
The monkey was off the back only to be replaced by a highly contagious disease.
The mental health of the Blues' staff (redundancies wouldn't have helped with morale) and players has been a big priority for the franchise and in a recent question and answer session for fans put on by sponsor nib, MacDonald revealed All Blacks mental skills coach Gilbert Enoka had provided assistance.
"People can have tough days but overall there's a lot of communication and everyone seems well supported," MacDonald said. "There are no major red flags at the moment but they can be hard to pick up too so we're conscious of that.
"We're trying to keep the players busy and distract them from what's going on, I suppose. We're giving them little projects and they've started trying to outdo each other. Some guys are probably a little more reserved but have come out of their shells. We've had some good videos and our Wednesday Zoom meetings have become a real highlight of the week."
Hooker Kurt Eklund was one player who had distinguished himself as a mickey-taker-in-chief as far as picking on the coaches was concerned. Humour helped, MacDonald said, and so did admitting you were struggling.
"The big thing that Gilbert Enoka mentioned to us was if you do feel like the situation's getting on top of you, acknowledge it. You're probably thinking too far ahead, or too far into the past - so just try to concentrate on some things throughout the day that can help you get through the day, things that make you smile and that you enjoy. Are you able to do things during the day that you enjoy?
"Try and put yourself in situations where you feel like you're in control of the situation, instead of the situation being in control of you. So you feel like you're on top of it.
"Having good friends, talking to people - and trying to find those things that make you happy - I think that's a good start."