Spark executives could be forgiven for gathering their staff today and playing a video of the locker-room scene from Any Given Sunday, in which Al Pacino gives arguably the finest sports speech in the history of cinema.
"I don't know what to say really," starts Pacino, rocking from side to side like a tired grizzly bear who's taken a few too many blows in his life.
"Three minutes to the biggest professional battle of our lives all comes down to today."
Spark, of course, stands on the eve of the biggest sports battle of its life, as it prepares to stream a spectacle that has been four years in the making. And much like Pacino, Spark too has taken a few blows from commentators around the country hell-bent on pointing out that it will not be able to deliver on its promise.
• What would it take for Spark Sport to pull the plug? Five pain points
• Spark Sport returns to full-blooded video - but gets in a jam with LG
• Spark Sport close to a clean sheet - but hit by Man U snag
So how thin is Spark's margin for error? How many mistakes can it afford to make? Are we talking minutes or seconds? Or maybe even less?
Well, Pacino happens to have an answer to that:
"In either game life or football, the margin for error is so small. I mean, one half-step too late or too early you don't quite make it. One half second too slow or too fast and you don't quite catch it. The inches we need are everywhere around us. They are in every break of the game, every minute, every second."
Massey University reputation expert Dr Chris Galloway agrees with the gravelly voice of Pacino, saying Spark is playing on a field that offers zero margin for error.
"Imagine a situation where one of the boys is chasing down the try line, ball in hand, and then suddenly the stream stops. That would be unforgivable for the people watching the event. It's not so much a matter of a glitch as when the glitch occurs," says Galloway.
He also notes that the degree of reputation damage Spark would suffer in the event of such a glitch would depend largely on timing. If the inches we lose occur in a critical phase, Spark will be remembered as the villain who sapped the exhilaration from a key moment.
Spark has a strong contingency plan in place, promising to switch the broadcast to TVNZ's Duke channel in a matter of minutes of any glitch being detected.
"Rationally, people would recognise that Spark is likely to do absolutely all it can to ensure there are no glitches and that it's never possible to eliminate glitches altogether," Galloway says.
"But this is an emotional thing."
He compares it to a mother taking her child to hospital or buying food at the grocery store. And while rationally we might concede that medical mistakes do sometimes happen and that lettuce can be contaminated with salmonella, the emotional effect of having those things go wrong quite often trumps any attempts at rationalisation. The same applies to rugby.
"People may well have an unreasonable expectation of perfection," Galloway says.
The other thing Galloway points out is that this unreasonable expectation is Spark's burden to carry alone, saying he doesn't think failure by the company will have a broader impact on the trust New Zealanders have in streaming services.
"I think the reaction of most people will be: 'Well, heck, that didn't work, I'll go find something that does.'
"Those people who have decided to pay for this particular streaming service have obviously bought into the idea of streaming as such and they're prepared to pay for it. If one avenue doesn't work, they'll look for a new one and there seems to be no shortage of new entrants into what's becoming a very crowded market."
This, of course, comes at a time when Spark's major competitor, Vodafone, has launched an emotionally charged campaign, trumpeting the impending rollout of its 5G product.
The timing of this launch shouldn't be under-estimated. While Spark sways at the edge of the connectivity abyss and feigns control over a situation well beyond its control, Vodafone pulls at Kiwi heartstrings with a narrative about connecting the nation to a world that seems on the brink of science fiction.
This isn't to say Vodafone is in the clear. The red telco is also stepping into uncharted territory and risks frustrating New Zealanders with technology that only works in certain areas. But Galloway points out that the stakes are much lower for Vodafone in that 5G will take a more traditional tech route, with early adopters bearing compatible phones giving it a crack long before the masses charge in.
"The larger lump of us will only step in once the early bugs have been dealt with," says Galloway.
There's also a broader insight here about the strategy businesses adopt when it comes to innovation. To use yet another sporting analogy, a 30-year study of the Formula 1 industry conducted by Paolo Aversa from the City University of London showed that leading the innovation race isn't always a good thing.
The study showed the car companies that innovated most aggressively often performed worse than those which innovated less. Aversa said that while the gut reaction of a business owner might be to innovate to get ahead, it actually pays to watch the big innovators have a crack and fail. This allows the other companies to watch where they went wrong and then innovate incrementally with the bits that actually worked.
The most obvious example of this in the tech space would be Apple, which makes a point of introducing small changes to each new edition of the iPhone rather than trying to remake the device entirely. You need only look at the recent fiasco of Samsung's folding phone to understand why Apple was in no rush to dive into a new space quite yet.
To borrow again from Pacino, it's often the inches that make the difference between whether we win or lose.
How to watch the Rugby World Cup
Smart TV: Spark Sport is available as an app on 2017 or newer Samsung, Panasonic and Sony Android Smart TVs or 2019 model LG Smart TVs. Head to the app store on your Smart TV and download the free Spark Sport app, from there just sign in and watch.
HDMI: Plug one end of the HDMI cable into your laptop and the other into your TV, which will mirror the screens. Now, on your laptop open an internet browser, sign into Spark Sport and start watching. You can get a decent HDMI cable for between $10 and $20.
Chromecast: Connect your Chromecast to the same WiFi network as your smartphone or tablet. Then, download the Spark Sport app on your device and click on the Cast icon when you want to stream to your TV. Chromecasts go for around $70 at retail stores.
Apple TV: Through the App Store, download and install the Spark Sport app and then stream. Fourth generation Apple TV devices retail for around $250 at electronics stores.