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Blues enter dangerous territory

Getty Images     27 May 2013     Getty Images

But veteran hooker Keven Mealamu has urged his team-mates not to stand back and admire their work just yet.

Saturday's bungled match against the Brumbies lowered the Aucklanders into a dogfight with the Crusaders for a finals wildcard, it also revealed alarming signs of complacency within the squad.

Taking an extended break after the horrors of 2012, Mealamu arrived at camp after upsets over the Hurricanes and Crusaders and was pleasantly surprised by the enthusiastic atmosphere.

Things haven't quite been the same in the last couple of weeks, however. The team whose mantra is 'Better never stops' seems to have, well, stopped.

It's been a month since the Blues were convincing in their performance. And with four games remaining, it's hardly an ideal time to reach a plateau.

A one-point loss to the Reds was followed by a defensively flawed 80 minutes, albeit a win, against the Stormers before the lowly Rebels were allowed to get to within a converted try of celebrating victory at Eden Park.

That was before the Crusaders exposed their lack of urgency during a 23-3 domination in Christchurch.

Saturday's dreary showing underlined a growing lack of desire as the Blues failed to fire until being 'booted up the butt' by an irate Sir John Kirwan at half-time.

"It's a worry if we don't get better," Mealamu said of the side's poor approach in recent weeks.

"The first place we've got to look is inside ourselves and really get that energy up.

"There's not many games left in this competition so we've got to make the most of the games we have left.

"Everyone has got to make that step up - make a 10 percent increase - and that's everyone."

With a tour of South Africa still to come the Blues face their most difficult task at the crucial part of the season.

A final block of three games will end with an even tougher task against the defending champions - the Chiefs.

Kirwan has continually preached that maintaining intensity throughout the Super Rugby 'marathon' is crucial but it would seem as though their fast pace, high impact game plan has taken a toll.

Captain Ali Williams admitted the situation has reached a critical stage and players appear to be going through the motions 'expecting it to happen.'

"We just need everyone to be there mentally. That's all it takes for us to play well," Mealamu added.

Their next game against the hapless Highlanders should provide the bounce-back needed to gain some much-needed confidence before the season adjourns for three weeks during the international window.

With a solitary win this season, the southern men are a step down in class. Still the Blues can ill-afford to bring anything less than their best to Forsyth Barr Stadium.

Another loss would all but end the feel good story that has been the Blues season so far.

"We won't be complacent against the Highlanders," Mealamu said. "A side that has had a season like theirs is always getting one step closer.

"We've just got to be as best prepared as we can and make sure that we follow that through into the game."