It is perhaps no coincidence the Blues' regression on their two-week Australian tour coincided with the absence of their secret weapon this season.
Overshadowed, from a profile perspective at least, by the likes of the Ioane brothers, Beauden Barrett and Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, Stephen Perofeta's influence has been among the most profound on the Blues in 2022.
He's won matches through clutch goal-kicking while his silky skills and control have shone in equal measure from fullback and first five-eighth.
With Barrett expected to satisfy his All Blacks rest requirements this week, following a series of 80-minute efforts, Perofeta appears poised to make a timely return to first-five after missing the past two patchy performances from the Blues while isolating with Covid.
Fortunately for Perofeta he suffered a mild case and is confident of bouncing back on Friday night against the Rebels at Eden Park where the Blues will attempt to atone for two unconvincing victories.
"I was quite lucky so I managed to freshen up the body and mind after a busy schedule at the start of the season so I'm ready to go," Perofeta said.
In the midst of his sixth season with the Blues, Perofeta has carried his purple patch of form after being recognised as last year's best provincial player during Taranaki's unbeaten campaign.
Whether it's chiming into the backline from fullback or creating for others from first-five, Perofeta exudes more time on the ball than ever – a commodity the best playmakers often display.
"I'm thoroughly enjoying my footy. The biggest thing for me is where my mind is at. I feel free and at ease. That's from the preparation I'm doing through the week so come game time I'm able to play what I see and the rugby I want to. That's being clear in the game plan, clear in my role, and I'm happy with my body and how it's holding up. This two-week break was probably a blessing in disguise."
Perofeta nears a critical juncture. The 25-year-old is playing the best rugby of his career to put himself in the frame for the All Blacks, possibly as the third-choice first-five behind Barrett and Richie Mo'unga, although Damian McKenzie may be welcomed back immediately from his Japanese sabbatical.
Otere Black's defection to Japan this season and Harry Plummer's season-ending injury paved the way for Perofeta to savour significant game time with the Blues, and he's made the most of those chances to fulfil the talent promised since his time with the New Zealand under-20s.
"It wasn't all smooth sailing for me but the biggest shift I've made after a couple of errors or bad moments in games is around flushing that and not letting it hold me back.
"Playing in the 15 and 10 jerseys, they are vital positions where you have a big influence into how the game goes. I've come to the realisation that I'm never going to have the perfect game, but if I've got the ability to move on from mistakes then the next moment is what's important. That's come from experience and my time in this environment."
Just as he matures into a classy, calm operator, Perofeta is weighing his future. He's yet to commit to Taranaki or the Blues beyond this season but indicates his intention is to keep pursuing the All Blacks dream, for now.
"It's a work in progress at the moment. I've connected with Taranaki and Neil Barnes. My ambition is to stay. If my form dies off towards the end of the season or I'm not as consistent then overseas is a viable option but I'm more leaning towards staying in New Zealand as long as possible.
"The All Blacks is in the back of my mind - that's the ultimate goal in what I'm wanting to achieve while I am in New Zealand. If that happens, it will be an extra motivation."
For now, Perofeta is content flittering between fullback and first-five, picking his moments to challenge the line or lay on chances for teammates.
Despite the Blues bumbling through their last two away matches, they remain top of the table following nine straight victories as they push to maintain the all-important home playoff position.
"We're honest and open about our games, reviewing and where we want to go. That's a massive shift and it's shown in the results. It doesn't reflect our recent inconsistent performances but we've still managed to win when we haven't been at our best.
"It's at a stage where we're questioning each other in the classroom and on the field. That alone is a massive shift towards where we're heading. We've got a good group of leaders driving standards, too, so it's a pleasing environment to be part of."