Aaron Cruden's potential All Blacks recall will become more pertinent with each passing week. Like any selection debate, though, there's much more to Cruden's case than compelling form alone.
All Blacks head coach Ian Foster and selector Grant Fox were among the enthusiastic yet underwhelming crowd numbers at Waikato Stadium for Saturday's headline match as Cruden laid on another clinic to help the Chiefs defeat the Crusaders.
Cruden has been back with the Chiefs less than six weeks, and will only get better from here.
Only a brave punter would back against him guiding the Chiefs to within touching distance of their third title, having done so twice previously under Dave Rennie.
The Chiefs will, surely, make the playoffs. From there, provided Sam Cane, Damian McKenzie, Lachlan Boshier, Anton Lienert-Brown and Brad Weber remain fit, they will seriously challenge anyone while Cruden pulls the strings.
Cruden has started one match this season yet his influence on the Chiefs is abundantly evident. Not just with his classy offloads or calm head under pressure, either, but the way he moves in to bark orders at the forward pack during breaks in play.
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These leadership qualities and his 50 tests of experience are already rubbing off in Hamilton.
The Cruden-McKenzie combination gives the Chiefs the best dual playmakers in Super Rugby – a key ingredient when chasing width to outflank inherent rush defences.
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Look at how Cruden found McKenzie in time and space after two midfield decoy runners for Solomon Alaimalo's try against the Crusaders. This was a set move executed to perfection.
In this touch, the All Blacks would be mad not to consider Cruden for an immediate recall.
Even with Beauden Barrett and Richie Mo'unga locked in their contest for the starting All Blacks first five-eighth role, it's surely a case of the more competition, the better, especially if injuries strike.
Cruden's presence would allow the All Blacks to leave McKenzie and Jordie Barrett to concentrate solely on the back three roles.
Selecting two first-fives for the World Cup last year forced the All Blacks to use Jordie Barrett as something of a stopgap measure against Namibia at No 10, and that's unlikely to be repeated.
Josh Ioane gained one test cap last year but with the Highlanders seemingly intent on playing him out of position at second-five, and instead preferring Mitchell Hunt to run the cutter, his All Blacks chances may be considerably hindered this season.
New Zealand's depth at No 10 is not, in fact, flush.
Crusaders coach Scott Robertson opted to shift David Havili from fullback to first-five against the Chiefs due to a lack of faith in Mo'unga's deputy, Brett Cameron. Havili performed well in the first half but three second half errors hurt his side's cause.
Many other promising prospects need time to hone their craft, and in Cruden the All Blacks have the option of not rushing anyone into the test arena before they are ready.
Here's the catch, though.
Cruden's future remains certain. After two difficult years in France, the 31-year-old is proving he has plenty left to give the New Zealand game.
Problem is, he's unlikely to be here long.
Cruden has been linked with a move to Japan after this Super Rugby season where he's expected to join Wayne Smith at Kobe and replace Dan Carter on a two-year deal.
That's partly why the Chiefs will feel urgency to groom Kaleb Trask and Tiaan Falcon.
On arrival at the Chiefs last month Cruden was non-committal when asked about the prospect of playing for the All Blacks again.
"I just want to contribute to each environment I'm in and haven't thought too much about the All Blacks," he said. "I've been removed from that environment for a few seasons and there have been a lot of changes in that scene as well."
With the Japanese pre-season starting in September, Cruden would only be available for the July tests against Wales and Scotland and, potentially, the first three Rugby Championship fixtures before leaving for Japan.
Time will tell whether Foster and company feel it's worth including him for that period. Asked on Sky Sport's Breakdown show if Cruden is available for All Blacks selection, Foster replied: "I'd like to think so."
The All Blacks have convinced players to back out of overseas contracts before, but at Cruden's stage of career, it may not make sense for him to burn that lucrative Japanese bridge.
Cruden played his last test off the bench against the British and Irish Lions at Eden Park in 2017.
As the clamour for his test recall inevitably grows in the coming weeks, his short-term return home makes such a prospect more complicated than it first appears.