It is now almost two years since New Zealand Rugby engaged investment bank Jefferies to run a tender to find the national union a private equity partner.
Two years and still an agreement has not been ratified and it's hard not to wonder now whether this plan to flood the game with US investment firm Silver Lake's cash is going to collapse with the finishing line in sight.
Everything was set for a grand finish later this month at NZR's annual general meeting when it was hoped that the provincial unions would vote yes to a $200m cash injection from Silver Lake and begin a new era of corporatisation and commercialisation of the national game.
But there will be no vote at the AGM now because the unions are in no mood to be railroaded into making the biggest decision of the last 100 years until they have answers to all their questions and greater certainty that this is the right move for everyone with a vested interest in the national game.
The provinces' insistence that they be given more time to evaluate the Silver Lake proposition is as foreboding as it is surprising.
The unions were largely considered to be onside with NZR's private equity plans: to be in favour, in principle at least, of the national body working with an investment partner.
For most of the two years NZR has been considering a private equity deal, the greatest opponent to it has been the Rugby Players' Association.
After writing to NZR in January last year to say they would not support a $465m deal to sell a 15 per cent stake of commercial income to Silver Lake, the RPA have been the resistance movement that has needed to be turned.
That happened in February this year when they agreed to proceed with a heavily reworked proposition.
The RPA agreed to support a new deal, one that is smaller in scale and more innovative with Silver Lake initially investing $200m for a five per cent stake and a separate, additional $100m capital raise planned for later this year which will only be open to local institutions.
Getting the players' approval was seen as the critical victory. It was the Hillary Step and having been successfully cleared, it meant the deal just needed to be sanctioned by the 26 provincial unions at NZR's annual general meeting on April 28.
Union approval wasn't deemed a formality, but they unanimously backed the initial deal in April 2021 and while the reworked proposal is significantly different, it provides many of the same financial benefits to the community game as before.
Under the first deal proposed, the provinces would share a $39m windfall. The current proposal sees them share $37m.
The timeframe for consideration is not so different now than it was last year either.
In 2021 the unions had about 10 weeks to evaluate the deal before voting on it at the AGM, which compares with the roughly eight they were going to have this year.
So the question which inevitably arises is why were the unions last year willing to unanimously vote in favour of a deal with Silver Lake but have this year asked for additional time to put the new proposal under a more intense and detailed scrutiny?
And the answer is that the unions have realised that last year, they were perhaps naïve to have been swept up in NZR's Fear Of Missing Out (FOMO) narrative.
NZR shoved a deal at them, said it was the best offer a sports organisation had ever negotiated in the history of private equity transactions and that it would be catastrophic to turn it down.
The Six Nations had agreed a deal with private equity firm CVC and that was promoted as evidence New Zealand was falling behind its Northern rivals.
But 12 months on and the FOMO play has lost its edge. CVC's first big act proved to be underwhelming.
They played a role in negotiating a new $935m four-year broadcast agreement for the Six Nations which represented an uplift of eight per cent once CVC had taken their share.
The Six Nations had hoped for better, however, with reports suggesting they had targeted $1.2b.
In the last few weeks it is also understood that Rugby Australia have opted against working with a private equity partner or indeed initiating any kind of capital raise.
Part of the FOMO story was that almost every other major nation would soon be accepting private equity investment, but the Australians are believed to have decided they can secure their financial future by hosting the British and Irish Lions in 2025 and World Cups in 2027 and 2029.
So too has much of the gloom that hovered over the financial landscape in early 2021 lifted.
NZR posted a $34m loss last year as a result of Covid biting the way it did, but improved broadcast and sponsorship deals are expected to see income rise this year to a record $270m or thereabouts.
With no external help, NZR have doubled their revenue since 2015 and still managed to put $70m-plus into reserves.
Just as importantly, New Zealand's provincial unions also appear to have accepted that they were wrong last year to take so much on good faith.
Neither the initial nor the reworked deal has provided an answer to the fundamental question of how Silver Lake plan to dramatically increase NZR's income.
Nor at any time in the last two years has NZR produced any compelling evidence to detail why the game would be better off working with Silver Lake.
The arguments to date have been more emotive than factual. Silver Lake have forecast that they will deliver $2m this year from what they call New Business Initiatives, rising to $16m next year, $25m in 2024 and $33m in 2025 for a total of almost $76m.
But so far Silver Lake have provided no detail as to what these initiatives are and how they will be executed and while they are a skilled investment house with a strong track record, they do need to wrap some detail around these figures so as they don't look like they have just stuck some numbers into a spreadsheet, hoping no one will be so impertinent as to query them.
Last year, the provinces took it on trust that Silver Lake had some kind of secret investment sauce, but it would appear now they have delayed making a decision about this particular deal until there is a bona fide business plan and detailed strategic vision attached to the forecasts.
Essentially, the unions have been brave enough to admit that they were wrong last year to wave the deal through without fully understanding all of the implications and that the onus is on NZR to convince them on an evidential rather than bombastic basis.