The Hurricanes fan base was subjected to mixed emotions in the space of four hours on Monday night after confirmation of TJ Perenara's homecoming, shortly before Ngani Laumape was announced as a new signing for Stade Francais in the French Top 14.
Perenara's decision to come home and 'complete some unfinished business', with eyes set on the Rugby World Cup in France in a little over two years, doesn't come as a shock. Laumape's move on the other hand raises some eyebrows, but the 28-year-old's decision to leave New Zealand for club rugby in France and embark on an exciting new journey is the best move for his career.
Laumape's defection of the New Zealand game brings an end to a thrilling six years, particularly in the Hurricanes midfield, where he made a name as one of the game's fiercest ball-runners, complete with a deadly shoulder to drop into doomed defenders.
2017 marked his powerful crash onto the Super Rugby scene with a tournament-high 15 tries for the Wellington franchise, helping earn an All Blacks debut in the second British and Irish Lions test at the Cake Tin – a performance that caught the eye.
Laumape emulated his power-running best in the three-point loss to the Lions, but a costly error at the end of the game – that handed the visitors their opportunity to kick the match-winning penalty – was a perfect indicator of his frustrating inconsistency to come in the test game.
There's no denying Laumape's talent, flashes of which have crept into his 15 All Blacks appearances, but he's never been able to back them up on a continual basis to warrant ongoing selection in a matchday 23.
Such a reality was arguably its most devastating for Laumape when he was left out of the 2019 World Cup squad despite having one of his better Hurricanes campaigns. Coach Sir Steve Hansen elected for Jack Goodhue, Anton Lienert-Brown, and the more experienced Sonny Bill Williams and Ryan Crotty in the midfield.
Factoring in his age – a point in the lives of explosive backs where their production is either maintained or begins to drop off - what suggests Laumape's due for a second coming?
The same concerns over his playing future though cannot be replicated in the European playing market. Even if his production drops, Laumape's about to enter a continent where those who have walked before him, with less talent at their disposal, have blossomed.
The likes of Bundee Aki, Willi Heinz, Sean Maitland and Gareth Anscombe left a rigorous competition down under and entered one with a lower standard of quality. All four made their way into the Irish, English, Scottish and Welsh national sides, and the British and Irish Lions for Aki and Maitland.
Laumape's commitment over the last four years to the All Blacks means he won't be about to enter the race for a spot in a European national side, but the success of New Zealand rugby rejects in the northern hemisphere shows how promising a future he has.
Yesterday, the Herald revealed the money disparity Laumape was offered in France compared to New Zealand. A bidding war between Stade Francais and fellow French club Toulon saw Laumape's annual salary increase mightily to seven figures, which is believed to be $400,000 more than what NZ Rugby could offer. That equates to a difference of $1.2 million for the next three years.
While it's likely finances weren't the only deciding factor in his scribbling on the dotted French line, it's highly plausible Laumape was underwhelmed by NZR's offer. Who can blame him?
A player's pay signifies two things in the sporting world. Firstly, how much that franchise or body values the player. Secondly, it's a marker for how successful the player has been. The hefty pay packet Laumape's about to incur acts as a reward for his hard work in the New Zealand game, with a rich overseas club stepping up to foot the reward.
More often than not money talks and in this case, it screamed loud enough for Laumape to turn his head.