Aaron Cruden represents everything that is brilliant, bad and downright confusing in New Zealand rugby.
Cruden and his Chiefs teammate Lachlan Boshier have been the outright stars, to my mind, over the first two weeks of Super Rugby.
Boshier, another of the hybrid loose forwards springing up, has shown amazing strength and technique in the opening rounds, particularly in robbing the ball off the expert Crusaders.
But every time Boshier lowered himself into the trenches against the champions, it left a sense of bewilderment at the distressing gap between the playing expertise in this country and the fools who have been running the game.
Rugby in this part of the world is in a crisis. The empty stands in Newcastle for a clash between the Blues and Waratahs said it all. The Hamilton stadium was a far healthier sight, and the game an absolute ripper, but a glamour date still failed to pack the place out.
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Cruden's return to Super Rugby, after a difficult stint in France, sums the situation up.
Right now, he is the best first five-eighth in the country and under normal circumstances you could start to debate whether, even at the age of 31, he is worth a test recall.
After the All Blacks fell apart when the heat went on at the World Cup, he should be a serious No.10 option even if Richie Mo'unga and Beauden Barrett remain the top choices.
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For all of his extraordinary brilliance, things go wrong far too often when Damian McKenzie gets involved in playmaker situations while Highlander Josh Ioane has made a positional shift.
Cruden meanwhile has morphed into Dan Carter Not-So-Lite.
From the moment he strode on after halftime against the Blues and engineered a comprehensive comeback, his authority has shone through.
And yet a day after beating the Crusaders, we find that Cruden will not travel with the Chiefs to Japan, where the nearly extinct Sunwolves await.
Cruden is already being "managed" and his understudies need game time because Cruden won't be there in 2021.
There's always a distraction, a bigger picture, a master plan. Rugby has lost the ability to live in the moment, and it's lost a large part of the crowd in the process.
As it is, we've already missed out on the chance to watch Cruden go head-to-head with Beaudie Barrett in round one, because the Blues recruit is still on holiday.
It is hard to even know if Cruden is in the All Black debate – I suspect he isn't for now - because he's off to play for the Kobelco Steelers on a two year contract.
Super Rugby has been used and abused and now it is paying the price. The public started giving up on it a long time ago.
Yes, there are overseas forces at work – European rugby's short sighted self-interest, South Africa's societal woes, Australian rugby's collapse, Japan's rising power – which may have been beyond resisting.
But under the long Steve Tew-led NZR administration, central control's iron grip and All Black obsession squeezed the life out of a game which desperately needed a vitality which more genuine free enterprise would have encouraged.
There's a belated revolt of sorts going on including a push by Super Rugby coaches like Gatland and Tony Brown to remove the blanket rules around All Black availability.
Bay of Plenty is part-forging its own path, joining a Chinese outfit which is part of the rebel Global Rapid Rugby movement which grew out of Perth.
And just last week, provincial rugby chief executives met about concerns for the domestic game, while TVNZ also reported "tensions" between the Rugby Kremlin and its branch offices, also known as the Super Rugby franchises.
Two years ago, Hurricanes coach Chris Boyd even had a decent crack at All Black coach Steve Hansen's lack of communication, and the player availability rules. Others have shunned the All Black coaching race.
Too little, too late. The time for meaningful protest was long ago, starting in 2007 when the All Blacks were allowed to rip the Super Rugby competition apart by standing down the test squad for half the tournament.
Like a mythical scene from the animal kingdom, Super Rugby is a wounded beast looking for a secluded spot where it can die without slowing down the herd. And the herd doesn't look too flash either.
Which leaves us with few crumbs of comfort.
I'd love to think that Cruden and Barrett will face each other when the Chiefs and Blues meet again in May. But one of them will probably have the night off.