Super Rugby is barely hanging on to its credibility and that tenuous grip could be lost in the next few weeks.
The competition that, between 1996 and 2005, was the envy of the world - easily the most intense and compelling - could find that its reputation is all, but destroyed in the next month.
These are serious and worrying times, because results in the knock-out rounds, combined with an impending decision about how many teams Australia will field in next year's competition, could inflict profound and lasting damage on the reputation of Super Rugby.
An already diminishing and sceptical fan base may end up feeling that a competition that they believe currently has limited integrity suddenly has none.
The playoffs, as was evidenced last year, accentuate the deficiencies of the current structure. The playoffs are where the lack of integrity is most obviously highlighted and nowhere will that be more visible than in Canberra, where the Brumbies, who gathered 34 competition points, will be at home against the Hurricanes who had 58 points.
A Brumbies victory would be a disaster for Super Rugby. There would be no getting away from how badly that would sit with anyone who understands that sport must run on the principle of being fair to all teams.
And how can it be fair that the Brumbies who amassed just six wins, compared with the Hurricanes' 12, are afforded the luxury of playing at home?
The significance of playing in Canberra can't be downplayed, as since 1996, the home side has won 80 percent of playoff games in Super Rugby.
And nor can another statistic be ignored - New Zealand sides won all 25 games against Australian teams this year and only lost two to South African teams. Those results add significant weight to the perception that the New Zealand sides - or at least four of them, excluding the Blues - are setting the standards in Super Rugby and that it is a near farcical situation that only one Kiwi team is hosting a quarter-final.
It also alludes to the potential difficulties that lie down the track, should the Lions win the title playing at home at Ellis Park. They are unquestionably a good team, but nevertheless it won't feel right or fair that their path to being champions only saw them confront a Kiwi team as late as the semifinal, possibly not at all.
If they are crowned champions, it will be a difficult sell for everyone to truly see them as legitimate winners. That will be a little harsh on the Lions, but there's still no escaping that a title, should it come, will have a hollowness to it and leave Super Rugby with a long road back to recover its credibility.
The end to this distorted world is potentially in sight with a revamped competition in the pipeline for next year. But as close as this new, improved future may appear, it may yet not materialise, if an arbitration hearing that begins at the end of this month denies the Australian Rugby Union the right to disestablish the Western Force.
If Australia can't fulfil their promise to cut a franchise ahead of next year, the 2018 competition is almost certainly going to run with 16 teams, as the South Africans have already shifted the Cheetahs and Kings to play in Europe.
A 16-team competition can be run as a true round-robin, but will require the four South African sides to accept a massively increased travel burden. They will be on the road as much as the Jaguares and Sunwolves, and face an almost impossibly punishing schedule.
Integrity will be just as compromised as it is now.
There would also be concern whether broadcasters would agree to a 16-team round-robin, as it would reduce the volume of local derbies and they may having to adjust the value of the contract.
So much rests on these next few weeks. Super Rugby's integrity is all but shot though.
The expansion teams have brought mediocrity, which has leached into the soil of the competition and infected much of the landscape.
None of the key indicators look good - crowds have fallen steadily since 2006, broadcast figures have mostly tumbled in the last two years, and the player exodus out of South Africa and, to a lesser extent, Australia has reached alarming levels.
Sanzaar, the body running the competition, took an age to accept the doomsday reality it faced, but finally conceded defeat earlier this year.
"We've seen, across all the markets, there's been a steady decline in TV viewership and match attendance," lamented chief executive Andy Marinos.
"Coupled with some extremely lopsided results that have been coming out of the games, and the falling crowd figures and broadcast numbers, we believe it was the right time to implement a change."
But depending on what happens in the next month, the change that Marinos promised may be too little, too late.