Super Rugby has been dominated by New Zealand teams since it began in 1996. In the 24 years of Super Rugby before Covid came calling, when South Africa, Australia, and New Zealand were all involved, Kiwi teams won 17 titles.
As this year's version of the competition possibly heads towards a dream final between the Blues and the Crusaders, how do the New Zealand giants of the past in the competition rate?
With apologies to the Highlanders and the Hurricanes, winners in 2015 and 2016, here are my top four Kiwi champions.
Coached by Graham Henry, captained by Zinzan Brooke, starring Jonah Lomu and Joeli Vidiri on the wings, the Blues won the first Super title in 1996, but lost three times in pool play. In 1997 they were unbeatable, cleaning up the Brumbies 23-7 in the final. It would prove to be the last real blaze of glory for legends Sean Fitzpatrick and Michael Jones, but it was a brilliant farewell.
Super Rugby was a fresh and exciting novelty then, and the Blues made it even better by winning with the sort of daring rugby we'd seen from the All Blacks in the 1995 World Cup. The 1998 upset loss in the final to the Crusaders would be a massive portent of what was to come.
Unbeaten all season, the Crusaders scored the most remarkable victory in Super Rugby history on a crisp May night in Christchurch, when in pool play they thrashed the second-place team, the Waratahs, 96-19.
Coached by Robbie Deans, the 2002 Crusaders squad had 19 All Blacks, and romped past the Brumbies 31-13 in the final. Jade Stadium sold out in two hours, and traffic officials estimated a crowd of 100,000 turned up for the victory parade on Monday.
"Like a young player, Robbie had a few rough edges as a coach when he started," mused Todd Blackadder, "but as time's gone by he's absorbed so much."
The most obvious bonus for the Chiefs in 2012 was having Sonny Bill Williams playing at second-five outside Aaron Cruden. Williams was at his dynamic best, and Cruden read the game brilliantly. In the opening minutes of the final against the Sharks in Hamilton, Cruden remembered video showing how quickly the Sharks raced up on defence.
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"I decided to give it a bit of a crack." He lobbed a kick, turned the Sharks line, and Tim Nanai-Williams scored. Cruden converted, and the Chiefs were on their way to a 37-6 triumph.
Another key issue was a coaching team of Dave Rennie with Wayne Smith as his assistant. The International Rugby Board had instructed referees to allow players without the ball to be knocked over if they were in the proximity of a breakdown.
"In 2012 our point of difference at the Chiefs was the clearout," Sam Cane told me in 2017. "The coaches we had were very smart, and we would do what we could to get an advantage. We had a simple philosophy. If there were less people on their feet there was more space to attack."
At the start of 2017, his first year as Crusaders coach, Scott Robertson took his squad to the isolation of Pudding Hill Lodge, near Mount Hutt, for years a favourite spot for Canterbury school camps.
"We talked about our year, our mission, and how we wanted to be remembered," says Robertson. The meeting finished, but Robertson drew them in again.
"Come and listen to the music." A small band formed by the players started to play. "We were away," says Robertson. "It all connected in. Some really good memories from that night, and it broke some of the barriers that you need to do to get tight."
I can't think of a better symbol of Robertson's audacious style, one that took the Crusaders to three successive titles in his first three years as coach. The 2018 season, with 14 All Blacks and two Wallabies in Crusaders jerseys, finished with a flourish, the 37-18 defeat of South Africa's Lions in the final.