Seven talking points from the weekend's Super Rugby.
1. THE TAB MAY BE ON THE MONEY
Before the 2020 season started the TAB had the Crusaders as favourites at $3 for another competition victory. In his days running the Crusaders, a favoured mantra of coaching guru Robbie Deans was that Super Rugby is "a marathon, not a sprint." And it is.
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But in the 43-25 defeat of the Waratahs in Nelson, there were two hugely encouraging signs for the Crusaders. One was the way younger, almost untried, players flung themselves into the game with a relentless enthusiasm that reflects their coach Scott Robertson's personality.
Perhaps even more important was that the new breed also showed a lot of the calm, calculated, ruthlessly efficient attitude of the veterans like Kieran Read and Ryan Crotty who have departed.
2. VIDEO ANALYSIS WOULD SHOW HIGHLIGHTS AND A TERRIFIC WORK ETHIC
Step forward please, Leicester Fainga'anuku, as a prime example of a brand new Crusader star who not only does the spectacular, like the brilliant aerial work to grab the ball, and then the strength and speed to beat three tacklers and race away, as he did, for a 35th minute try, but is also prepared to forage like a loose forward at the breakdown.
Born in Auckland, but brought up in Nelson, Fainga'anuku was being chased by league and rugby when he was only 15, but Tasman and the Crusaders got there first.
The depth the Crusaders now have on the wing is startling.
3. PROVING HOOKERS CAN SOMETIMES BE AS CLEVER AS PROPS
When a hooker has the ball at the 22, any sane defender would decide, as the Waratahs did at the 65-minute mark in Nelson, not to worry too much.
Obviously a front-rower won't have the skill or daring to take a quick drop out. Oops. Codie Taylor did just that, and did it so perfectly that he started a sweeping movement that two phases, eight terrific catch and passes, and 78 metres, later, Will Jordan was scoring a great try.
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I've always believed the real brains of a team lie in the front row, and in Nelson, Taylor reinforced that belief.
4. MAYBE THERE WILL BE A SECOND ACT
A month ago Aaron Cruden swore that he "hadn't really thought too much about the All Blacks" after returning to the Chiefs from France and Japan.
After what amounted to a first-five master class in the second half of the Chiefs' 37-29 win over the Blues, they may not be on his mind yet, but the All Blacks might soon be starting to think about him.
Forty minutes, of course, isn't enough for any of us to know exactly how many of the 31-year-old's considerable skills are as good, or possibly even better, than they were before he headed overseas.
But if he keeps playing with the ice-cool command he did on Friday night, then not only will the Chiefs loom larger as title contenders, but the old kid in town may be challenging young guns Richie Mo'unga and Josh Ioane when the first All Blacks squad is named in late June.
5. SHOULD SOMEONE AT THE BLUES DOUBLE CHECK WHETHER IT'S OKAY TO USE PROZAC IN RUGBY?
Nobody could doubt the commitment, or the flashes of real brilliance from the Blues at Eden Park.
But holy heartache Batman, as well as the Chiefs played, Blues' captain Patrick Tuipulotu was 100 per cent on the money when he said the visitors' victory was also helped along by what Tuipulotu politely called "silly mistakes" by the Blues themselves.
Composure in sport is a strange beast. Finding that calm place, where good clinical decisions are calmly made, and a 19-5 halftime lead isn't blown in what felt like the blink of an eye, will remain a major task for coach Leon MacDonald.
It's one of life's little ironies that MacDonald as a player was himself a man who never seemed to suffer even a mild panic attack.
6. AS THEY SAY, FORM IS TEMPORARY, CLASS IS PERMANENT
Rieko Ioane, slightly out of sorts at the end of last year, looked like the bustling flier he was when Steve Hansen catapulted him into the All Blacks in 2017.
His first try for the Blues was good, his second was sensational. As a Kiwi schoolkid once wrote to Sean Fitzpatrick about Jonah Lomu, "Rugby is a team game, the rest of you give the ball to Jonah." The more Ioane sees the ball this year, the better off the Blues will be.
7. THAT BARKING IN CAPE TOWN WAS FROM THE DOG OF A GAME AT NEWLANDS
The Stormers totally deserved their 27-0 win over the Hurricanes, but the match itself was everything bad about early season rugby.
You name it, dropped passes (from both sides), aimless kicking, messy lineouts, disjointed defence, and poor decisions on attack, which led to two intercept tries, and this excuse for a spectacle had it.
There was a golden moment at the seven-minute mark when Stormers' halfback Herschel Jantjies made a daring cross-field kick from which Sergeal Petersen scored a sensational try. But the next 73 minutes became basically a noir comedy of errors, which could have been used in court as evidence to support a case for the first weekend in February being way, way too soon to start Super Rugby.