Super Rugby 2019: Crunch time for Blues as season hangs in the balance

Rieko Ioane's return couldn't have come at a more important time for the Blues.

Arguably the franchise's best in 2019, the All Blacks flyer is back from a rest week, ready to face a confident Hurricanes side, who have only slipped up against the Crusaders this season.

Blues coach Leon MacDonald is obviously delighted to have his star player back on deck but unfortunately, Ioane won't help a set piece that was bruised by the Brumbies last week.

"Reiko's world-class and you miss him anytime he's not on the field, but I don't think he'd add much value to the scrum and the maul though," MacDonald quirked.

The mauling at the hands of the Australian side still hurts five days on, but MacDonald is confident his pack will bounce back on Friday night in Auckland.

"The Brumbies found a way in in the weekend through their scrum and maul," MacDonald said.

"We've gotta quickly find our way in the weekend and make them [Hurricanes] pay.

But the Hurricanes are wary of the wounded Blues, who haven't won in a month.

With just two losses this season, coach John Plumtree doesn't want to concede the hard-earned distance they have put on the chasing trio of the Blues, Highlanders and Chiefs.

"Again, we're expecting that they'll target our pack," Plumtree said.

Friday nights blockbuster marks the first time the two sides have played this season, and the first time Ma'a Nonu will come face to face with his old club since his return from France.

"Ma'a's just an absolute legend in Wellington and it breaks my heart seeing him playing at the Blues," Plumtree said.

And playing at Eden Park, a venue the Blues haven't lost at since round one providing the advantage they need to snap their losing streak - against a Hurricanes outfit they haven't beat in four years.

"If we're going to progress any further and into the playoffs, then we're going to have to play them away anyway, so now's a great time to play them," MacDonald said.

With another three local derbies to come after Friday, overcoming Kiwi opposition will now be the measure of the success or failure of the Blues season.