Two losses to the Crusaders earlier in the season and how they changed their game between both were lessons the Blues hope to learn from in Friday's Super Rugby Pacific semifinal in Christchurch.

Coach Leon MacDonald said the Blues, who were beaten 28-34 at home and 15-3 in Christchurch in regular season play, believe they had a feel for where the Crusaders were taking their game, while the Blues had grown a lot since they last met.

The Crusaders are unbeaten in 28 home play-off games since their first home play-off in 1998. 

Finding the balance between game smarts, game management and physicality was crucial, as was having the confidence to use the ball when the opportunities arose.

"You have got to have the perfect game to go down there and win. We can't go down there and be frivolous. We saw the [Fijian] Drua go down there and chuck the ball around and struggle. You've got to play your controlled game, but also, when it is time to open it up, that is what we are guilty of.

"There were times when we were down there last, to have a crack and we didn't use the ball. It's just picking those right times to have a go."

MacDonald said while the Crusaders had some injury problems, he had no doubt they would still field a strong team.

"It's a tough game and there's a reason in 28 playoff games they are unbeaten so they will be backing themselves. We're confident also, we've been building nicely and we have continuity with our squad from last week as well so guys are starting to feel a little more comfortable with each other as well."

Lock Sam Whitelock would not be playing, but Scott Barrett and Quinten Strange were experienced in that role.

"All week, we've spoken about how we can match them in a lot of areas, and we believe we can. Mystique? Yeah, they've got an amazing record but we definitely feel we can compete in a lot of parts across the field and back ourselves there. I don't think our group is spooked in any way."

Caleb Clarke's return was a boost. 

"He brings a point of difference around the aerial game, and his ability to beat the first defender. He's pretty lethal close to the line as well, where he's so powerful. It's great to have him back."

Centre Rieko Ioane may be playing his 100th game for the Blues, but that was the least of his concerns. The centre said he would leave thinking about that until after the game.

"For the time being it's about parking that emotion. It's no fairytale night if we don't get the job done first. The sole focus was training today, then travelling well and getting a good captain's run in tomorrow."

The Crusaders were a tight-knit team and have shown since coach Scott Robertson took over that they know how to win championships.

"They have shown that countless times. That's where this team is looking to get to. We did a job last week; now it's about replicating it and going even further. We know it's a bitter rivalry, and we're looking to play the best footy on Friday."

Ioane knows the frustration of playing through the tail end of the Blues' barren years, but he believes the side has emerged better for the experience, and the Crusaders were no longer the high hurdle they had been in the past.

"Now we feel like we've got the team and belief to go down and do the business."

SEMIFINAL: Crusaders v Blues, Friday 16 June, 7.05pm NZT, Orangetheory Stadium, Christchurch