Blues coach David Nucifora may keep his All Blacks benched for the foreseeable future.
Nucifora’s side have led the way in the Super 14 without the internationals – Keven Mealamu, Tony Woodcock, Ali Williams and Josevata Rokocoko – who spent the summer in the New Zealand Rugby Union’s reconditioning programme.
All four are available for the derby against the Chiefs in Hamilton this weekend, but Australian Nucifora is ready to provoke the ire of the All Blacks management by continuing to keep the representatives sidelined.
He told The New Zealand Herald: "I don’t see how they can be up to speed. There is no guarantee, to be honest.
"The others have had eight rounds of intense competition and it will take them some time to catch up to that.
"It is difficult not just with the four players, it is tricky to keep them all involved. The guys who have got the opportunities have done well.
"We have got players who are going well, they are keen and enthusiastic and there is not a lot of difference in class between these guys, especially at the elite end."
The Blues have flourished with their quartet absent, and the other four franchises had mixed results when recalling their star names.
The Crusaders and Hurricanes both started six All Blacks, the Chiefs two, the Highlanders and Blues one each from the bench, with just three wins – for the champion Crusaders, Chiefs and pacesetting Blues.