The eyes of the rugby world descend on New Zealand this weekend as Super Rugby Aotearoa reaps the rewards of the country's coronavirus response.
Three months after our national sport was forced to shut down amid the global pandemic, Eden Park will today host a sold out arena for the Blues and Hurricanes in the biggest Super Rugby turnout at the venue for 15 years.
Well over 60,000 people will attend Super Rugby Aotearoa's opening round featuring the Highlanders and Chiefs in Dunedin on Saturday night, followed by Beauden Barrett's highly-anticipated debut for the Blues today.
The 43,000 fans flocking to the Blues will send New Zealand Rugby a clear message: Sunday afternoon games are a hit and they must remain permanent fixtures on the calendar.
And if there's another lesson in the renewed interest it's that scarcity, not saturation, breeds enthusiasm.
In the case of professional sport, less is more. Quality over quantity.
After being deprived of sport and the chance to attend any social gatherings during lockdown, rugby is experiencing the adage absence makes the heart grow fonder.
Ten weeks of New Zealand only derbies has punters here and abroad, where pandemic measures remain in place, salivating at the prospect of virtual All Blacks trials every weekend.
Hype doesn't always match reality but there is a sense on this occasion Super Rugby Aotearoa will deliver compelling rivalries that will leave supporters craving more of this new domestic format, rather than the tired cross-border competition rendered unworkable while international travel is off limits.
All Blacks wing Rieko Ioane, who starts at centre today, has played for the Blues since 2016 but never at a sold out Eden Park. The last time he can remember seeing the stands full for a Super Rugby game was when Blues defence coach Tana Umaga played for the Hurricanes – and he finished playing in the capital in 2007.
"They played a replay from YouTube of the Blues Hurricanes match and I was doing a bit of analysis on Tana and the crowd looked pretty full so hopefully after this week it's not just a one-hit wonder and we keep the crowds up. Everyone is looking forward to it," Ioane said.
"It is something we dream about and there's a huge buzz going around but we've got to focus on our job first and hopefully put a performance out there the fans can be proud of.
"It's not every day we test ourselves week in week out against New Zealand opposition so it's going to make our Super Rugby teams a lot stronger and give us a good gauge of where we're at."
The scene is set. All that's left is for the players to deliver on expectations. Do that, and Blues coach Leon MacDonald hopes the novelty factor does not wear off.
"I hope it's not a flash in the pan it'd be great if this was the new norm," MacDonald said. "Sunday afternoon kickoffs are great for everyone. My kids are excited about going to the rugby with a dry ball.
"New Zealand teams, the derby games, are traditionally good because they come with an attitude to play. It's not about stopping the opposition - it's about imposing your own game. If we can get that game going from both teams a lot of people will hopefully walk away thinking how lucky we are to sit there and watch it in our own city.
"Hopefully we can put a game on that makes them want to come back again."