Ten talking points from Super Rugby, and a translation for those who don't know consultant speak.
IT JUST MAY BE TIME TO PARTY LIKE IT'S 1996
So in Cape Town the Blues play the Stormers, the top team on the South African table, and don't just win 33-14, but are also faster, tougher, stronger, and, possibly most importantly, way, way smarter.
This was the best game from the Blues since Don Brash was leader of the National party, and they banned smoking in bars.
There were outstanding performances all over the field, but the key man was first-five Otere Black, who masterfully controlled the attack, and kicked every goal.
(The South African television commentators, who agonise when their team is being beaten, seemed outraged that some of Black's successful kicks weren't soaring higher over the cross bar. "That was low and slicing," moaned one as the flags went up. "Yeah," grunted his offsider, "but it all counts.")
YOU KNOW THAT IDEA ABOUT PLAYING A FIRST-FIVE AT FULLBACK?
Steven Perofeta was a revelation in the 15 jersey last weekend against the Bulls in Pretoria, and on a hard, dry ground in Cape Town he was nothing less than sensational.
Fearless under the high ball, his experience as a first-five showed with his slick, well timed passing when he came into the backline, often giving the dynamic three-quarter line of Rieko Ioane, Mark Talea, and Joe Marchant the half step start that's all gifted speedsters need to create havoc.
The best Perofeta touch came in the sixth minute when he dummied to Patrick Tuipulotu, which drew two would be tacklers to the Blues' captain, while Perofeta was slipping the ball to Marchant, so the wing could dash in for the first try.
LET'S BE HONEST. THE OLD BLUES MIGHT HAVE CRUMBLED.
What Blues' fans should cherish from the Cape Town victory was how, when the Stormers drew to just six points behind with three minutes to go to halftime the Blues dug in, and replied with a try on the stroke of halftime.
The game in Wellington next Saturday, when the Blues take on the Hurricanes, should be a throwback to the glory days of the competition.
HE CAN DANCE, CAN PROBABLY SING, AND ON THE FIELD CAN DO ALMOST ANY OLD THING
Ngani Laumape broke out his moves after scoring a terrific try in the Hurricanes highly entertaining, 10 try, 62-15, romp against the Sunwolves in Napier on Saturday night. "There is a vacancy on Dancing With The Stars," noted commentator Ken Laban.
Better still Laumape continued the dynamic form that will surely see him back in the All Black squad this year. His physicality has never been in doubt, but in Napier, as a first receiver at many breakdowns, he was astute and slick.
WITH A BALL SHAPED LIKE A PEANUT, THE BOUNCE CAN DO AMAZING THINGS
Three, count them, three, of the Canes' tries came from passes that bounced before they came to the hand of the scorers. Nobody's suggesting that a basketball bounce pass should become part of rugby, but the fact is when they happen accidentally, and if the bounce for the attacking team is right, nothing throws off a defensive line quite as well.
Vince Aso is a very good centre, and usually an impeccable passer, but would Kobus Van Wyk, in the 11th minute, or Chase Tiatia in the 24th, have scored if Aso had flicked the ball straight into their arms? Cruel luck for the Sunwolves, but so often in rugby the team dominating also seems to get all the good fortune.
WHAT A GREAT PARTING GIFT
Before John Plumtree left the Canes to join the All Black coaching staff he signed up Van Wyk, a 28-year-old utility back from South Africa. It's possible nobody else in Wellington had ever heard of him.
But Plumtree, no doubt still having contacts in South Africa from his time coaching in Durban for six years to 2012, did know Van Dyk, and in a dream debut in Napier the man from Nababeep looked like everything you'd want in an outside back.
NOT A ROLLING MAUL, A RUNNING MAUL
The Highlanders didn't throw the towel in on Friday night in Dunedin, but the 28-22 loss to the Rebels felt almost inevitable when at the 12 minute mark, already ahead 7-0, the Rebels launched a forward drive that started at a brisk walk, moved to a trot, and was damn near to be being a sprint by the time the last Highlander forward was swept aside and humiliated for star hooker Anaru Rangi to score a try.
YES, OF COURSE ANARU RANGI WAS BORN IN NEW ZEALAND
Rangi was born in Lower Hutt, went to Perth when in his 20s to work in the mines, and ended up as a scaffolder, enjoying, in his words "more midweek beers than I'd like to confess to", while playing club footy for fun.
He was initially spotted by the Western Force, and, after two seasons with the Force from 2016, is now in his third season with the Rebels. He's 20kg lighter than in his tradie days, and, although he's now 31, wouldn't look out of place in a Wallaby front row.
THEY DO CALL THEM MIRACLE PASSES BECAUSE ONLY A FEW WORK
The Highlanders are obviously working on playing the sort of expansive, daring rugby Japan has done under the guidance of Highlander graduates, Jamie Joseph and Tony Brown.
What's a concern is that the ratio of intercepts from long, cut out passes by the Highlanders this year, whether made under instruction, or on instinct, is scarily high. Hopeful ballooning passes was a major factor in the 42-20 demolition by the Sharks three weeks ago, so it was disconcerting to see Rebel flyer Andrew Kellaway racing off for two tries after poor Highlander passing.
NO KIDDING SHERLOCK? THAT'S A HUGE SURPRISE
So when the actual figures were examined, it was discovered what a lot of us had suspected since we first expressed concern about the lack of neutral referees in Super Rugby. In games since 2017 South African referees have awarded on average 3.67 more penalties per game to their own country's teams than to opposing sides. Aussie refs averaged 0.5 more per game to Australian teams, while Kiwi refs actually awarded 0.26 fewer penalties per game to New Zealand sides. Neutral referees were basically exactly that, awarding just 0.2 more penalties to teams playing at home.
"In terms of statistics," huffed an unimpressed Andy Marinos, the CEO of Sanzaar, "people are always producing statistics." Marinos is a South African.
THERE ARE HIGH EARNING PEOPLE IN PLACES LIKE PARNELL PAID TO WRITE THIS GIBBERISH
Having first encountered, as a city council reporter in the 1970s, what were then called information officers, let me try to translate from consultant speak into English five key points in New Zealand Rugby's announcement of a major review of the game.
"High performance pathway." That means they'll look at how young players get to be All Blacks.
"Expenditure optimisation." They'll be cutting costs.
"Resourcing across rugby." See "expenditure optimisation."
"Domestic competitions." Look out provincial unions, they'll be looking to do a bit of expenditure optimisation with you.
"Revenue growth opportunities." They're looking for sponsors.
I hope that helps.
Meanwhile everyone in rugby should remember to be very afraid, then to steel themselves and get ready for a scrap, if they find themselves in a room with a group of consultants saying the four most terrifying words a business can hear: "We're here to help."