The shadow of two World Cups hangs over Super Rugby, which kicks off next Friday, February 13.
While the Cricket World Cup will occupy much of the attention of Kiwi sports fans until March 29, especially if the Black Caps go deep into the tournament, Super Rugby's top players know that form from now until June will be vital to securing Rugby World Cup berths.
Chiefs playmaker and 2014 co-captain Aaron Cruden appreciates and enjoys the summer code, but has his own battle - to again prove he is the No1 first five in the country, a tag he carried until his infamous missed flight in September gave Beauden Barrett an opening. Seen as a starter only rather than a versatile bench option, Super Rugby assumes vital importance for Cruden, a two-time champion, and the Crusaders' Dan Carter, three-time champion.
"I can only speak for myself. I have high expectations for whichever team I play for. It's about enjoying my rugby this year and getting back to doing what I love, staying injury-free and contributing to the Chiefs' season, and hopefully that will continue throughout the year," said the 26-year-old, who has 73 Super caps and 37 All Black test caps.
Cruden said it shouldn't be too challenging to simply focus on what he needed to do in the short term, despite the big event in September-October.
"It allows guys to get stuck into Super Rugby, with no June window, and then once that's done, you put your hat on and get ready for the Rugby World Cup."
He is unsure whether the early focus on the cricket will impact negatively on Super Rugby crowds.
"I hope there are big crowds at Super Rugby, but I also hope there are big crowds at the Cricket World Cup with New Zealand showcased to the whole world.
"As New Zealanders, we love our sport, so hopefully everyone gets along to both."
That may be wishful thinking in these tight economic times, but Super Rugby will always hold fascination in several spheres, be they internet competitions or in the pure rugby sense.
Cruden appeared on the latest Super Rugby TV advert, unveiled at yesterday's season launch at Auckland's College Rifles club. He was seen hanging out washing as part of the community engagement theme organisers are pushing in 2015.
Refreshed after a mentally relaxing off-season, and with no contractual questions hanging over his head, having signed until 2017, Cruden is keen to play with what looks, on paper, to be a striking Chiefs backline.
The notable recruits in this area are wing Hosea Gear, and midfielders Sonny Bill Williams and Seta Tamanivalu.
"The [roster] is really exciting. There's always enthusiasm. The Chiefs have done really well with their recruitment, so as long as everyone can stay fit and healthy, we should be okay. We've set goals as a team to win the competition."
Cruden will make his first appearance in round two versus the Brumbies, missing the February 14 opener as part of the plan to have all the All Blacks miss two regular season games during the season.
Players from each franchise tried their hand at archery during the launch, and it was noted that the Blues, with a little help, seemed sharper than the others.