Super Rugby as we know it is finished – its demise hastened by a pandemic which has not only halted almost all international travel for the foreseeable future but has also forced businesses and organisations to focus on what is truly necessary for their survival.
Right now in New Zealand and Australia in particular, staying local is better, and that is likely to be the direction New Zealand Rugby goes in once it has finished yet another review under chief executive Mark Robinson, this one an investigation into Super Rugby in New Zealand – in particular how it engages fans, makes money and prepares future All Blacks.
What this last five weeks has highlighted is how the best businesses have adapted in order to keep their consumers happy and in many cases attracted new consumers. Those led by flexible thinkers willing to change have thrived and will continue to do so.
Will this force NZ Rugby to do likewise? It is a perfect opportunity and I have one idea in particular in terms of engagement that I will come back to.
In the meantime, it doesn't take a genius to suggest NZ Rugby's review doesn't bode well for the four South African franchises or Argentina's Jaguares, and with Air New Zealand cancelling its direct flights from Argentina and with little hope of those routes being re-opened, the writing is on the departure board.
Without getting into finances, the maintenance of links between Sanzaar partners and what the Rugby Championship might look like, a transtasman competition now appears the only option for NZ Rugby given the close links between the countries and the likelihood both are on track to eliminate Covid-19.
The reality is including South Africa in a weekly competition hasn't worked for New Zealand (or Australian) audiences because of the time difference between the countries. If you can't engage fans when games are kicking off in the early hours of the morning, you certainly can't hope to attract new ones.
Compounding matters has been the diluting of talent across South Africa. Yes, the Cheetahs and Kings have gone, but while the Lions have made gains recently in making the grand finals in 2017 and 2018 (losing to the Crusaders at home and then away), teams from the Republic have not done well here on a consistent basis and they are not big drawcards as far as crowds go.
Nothing should be off the table as far as NZ Rugby's review goes, including how teams and players are presented to the public through the media. Both groups are described as "stakeholders" by NZ Rugby but both have been taken for granted for too long. That cannot continue.
Unfortunately, the coronavirus has taken a huge toll on the latter group, and the effects are likely to be felt for some time. Similarly, the first casualties when franchises seek to cut costs are usually their communications people.
But in the early days of Super Rugby when the competition was new and extremely popular, the media access to the players was on a different scale to what it is now.
In 1997, after the Blues beat the Brumbies in front of a packed Eden Park to win the Super Rugby grand final, the media were allowed into the victorious team's changing room. I distinctly remember interviewing midfielder Lee Stensness and fullback Adrian Cashmore while the pair were sitting in a spa bath. They may have been drinking out of a Champagne bottle.
Strangely, I definitely remember that the song loudly playing on the team's tape deck was Purple Haze by Jimi Hendrix.
It may be too much to hope for, but such access – and it's mandatory in many professional American sports – would do wonders for how teams and players are viewed by supporters (consumers).
Looking back, that song in that triumphant and happy changing room, when the future seemed so bright, seems about apt for these times.
Purple haze all in my eyes
Don't know if it's day or night
You got me blowin', blowin' my mind
Is it tomorrow, or just the end of time?