Blues’ succession dilemma exposes the disastrous shortage of top-quality talent on these shores, writes Gregor Paul.
As the country sweats on whether Julian Savea and Brodie Retallick will be the next high-profile departures, the situation at the Blues has highlighted that a coaching exodus is a bigger and more severe problem for the game in New Zealand.
Players come, players go and for all the hullabaloo and prophecies of doom, the production line keeps spitting out young men who are the equal, if not more advanced than their global peers. So far New Zealand's player development machinery has been blessed with an infinite capacity to keep replacing itself.
But when it comes to coaches it's a different story. The fact the Blues board have even considered Sir John Kirwan's contentious succession plan is not just an indictment of their leadership, it is a more telling indictment of the lack of quality coaches being developed.
The depth simply isn't there. New Zealand's largest, best-resourced Super Rugby side is in dire need of a new coach for next season and not a single domestic candidate springs to mind as an obvious choice.
No one is knocking the door down with a CV that says they have an irresistible record. The best the Blues have come up with so far is Crusaders assistant Tabai Matson.
He may well prove to be an outstanding head coach if and possibly when his time comes but it says everything about the lack of choice that the Blues are having to work on gut feel and instinct on Matson's potential rather than bona fide results and proven track record. His head coaching experience extends to one title-winning season with Canterbury in 2012.
If Kirwan's crazy plan is implemented, will the Blues really trumpet the snatching of Matson as a coup for the region? Is it reason to rejoice that the coaching future of the franchise sits in the hands of a relatively unknown quantity who has been pinched from a Crusaders team that has been pilloried for a lack of imagination and dynamism?
There's enough anti-Auckland sentiment for this situation to be labelled as yet another failing of the Blues, but perhaps this time they are not the architect of their misfortune. The bigger issue here is that too much coaching talent is overseas.
Warren Gatland (Wales), Joe Schmidt (Ireland) and Vern Cotter (Scotland) are the three most experienced, best-equipped New Zealand coaches working overseas. Any one of those three would most likely turn the Blues into championship contenders if they were here.
So too could Robbie Deans. The former Crusaders and Wallaby coach is not everyone's cup of tea but his record in Super Rugby is phenomenal and his Panasonic team in Japan have won the past two titles.
Counties coach Milton Haig has taken Georgia ahead of Italy in the world rankings and sparked rumblings that the eastern European nation is ready to join the Six Nations.
Then there is Jono Gibbes, the former All Black flanker carving out a big name for himself first with Leinster and now with Clermont.
Chiefs assistant Tom Coventry would be perfect for the Blues but he'll join London Irish after this Super Rugby campaign, while Manawatu's Jason O'Halloran, a thoughtful and impressive emerging coach, is believed to be heading overseas as well.
The value of good coaching is impossible to measure. Look at the impact Dave Rennie had on the Chiefs when he arrived: they went from basket case to two-times champions overnight.
Chris Boyd and John Plumtree have led a similarly dramatic transition at the Hurricanes and Jamie Joseph, after a difficult start at the Highlanders, has been almost miraculous in the way he's eked so much out of a Highlanders team that is basically a clutch of mediocrity wrapped around the brilliance of Ben and Aaron Smith, Waisake Naholo and Malakai Fekitoa.
New Zealand has some great coaches - but not enough of them are here or available to be here to take the helm of the Blues next year.
After a brief stint with Waikato (won NPC in 2006) and a season as Chiefs assistant in 2007, Gatland was appointed by Wales and is locked in until 2019. Has won two Grand Slams 2008 and 2012 and took Wales to the semifinals of the 2011 World Cup.
Coached Leinster to back-to-back Heineken Cups which earned him the Ireland job in 2013. Has had an immediate impact - helping the Irish to beat Australia and South Africa last year, win the Six Nations this year and climb to number three in the world rankings.
In 2010 he delivered Clermont their first coveted Top 14 title in 50 years after coaching them to multiple appearances in the final. Was shortlisted for the All Black job in 2011 and then head-hunted by Scotland in 2014.
Has the best Super Rugby coaching record in history - having played a role of some sort in the 1998, 1999 and 2000 victories and as head coach in 2002, 2005, 2006 and 2008. Won the Tri Nations with the Wallabies in 2011 and took them to the World Cup semifinals that year too before joining Panasonic in Japan where he has delivered two titles already.
Held various assistant and head roles with Bay of Plenty and Counties before landing the job with Georgia after the last World Cup. Has helped them qualify again for the 2015 tournament and to climb to an all-time high of 14th in the world rankings.