Cancelling the Super Rugby Aotearoa finale between the Blues and Crusaders is the first of many renewed Covid-19 pressure points for New Zealand Rugby.
Once the Highlanders and Hurricanes conclude the highly successful derby competition behind closed doors in Dunedin this afternoon, attention will immediately turn to the North versus South fixture scheduled for August 29 at Eden Park which is now shrouded in doubt, and the imminent impact on the Farah Palmer Cup.
NZR head of professional rugby Chris Lendrum admitted the latest Covid-19 outbreak, which forced Auckland back into Level 3 restrictions on Wednesday, could also force a rethink on plans to establish an eight-to-10 team Super Rugby competition next year.
"We've been in a border restriction place for almost five months now. Another five months takes you through to deep pre-season next year… you have to start thinking about possibilities," Lendrum said hours after the Government extended Level 3 measures in Auckland for another 12 days.
"Our strong desire is to have some form of cross-border regional competition operating in 2021 but Covid is always a hurdle and the last 72 hours have demonstrated again what a challenge that is for everyone here with no end in sight.
"Is there a possibility we have to run domestic-only alternatives next year? Yeah, it's a possibility."
Lendrum would not be drawn on ructions between NZR and Rugby Australia over how many of the trans-Tasman neighbour's five sides should be included in next year's format, but he issued a firm vote of confidence in the New Zealand-only competition, despite concerns around the test match-like physical toll it has exuded on players.
"I've got no doubt this competition is viable. What we've seen over the past 10 weeks shows that. The crowd and broadcast interest and engagement it's been enormous so I'm totally comfortable if we end up playing it again – it's just not our preference.
"If we have to stand it up again it will be fantastic again."
The fraught timeline for the North versus South fixture, and the naming of Ian Foster's first All Blacks squad the following day, is now problematic for NZR.
As it stands, Auckland will remain in alert Level 3 until midnight Wednesday, August 26; three days before the scheduled inter-Island match at Eden Park.
In the professional world, three days is not nearly enough for new-look teams to assemble, train and prepare.
"You can do the numbers there. It's far from ideal. Clearly we'll be wanting to look at options around how we get a proper preparation for that week.
"We get a Government review on the 21st and another decision as late as the 26th so there's clearly some uncertainty there. We just have to take our time; talk with Government, talk with stakeholders in Auckland. We'll make some decisions as soon as we can around that next week."
Even the possibility of moving that match out of Auckland leaves questions as to whether players within New Zealand's largest city would be excluded from taking part.
"Clearly the split alert level creates some complexity so we've got to work through that."
Plans for the Farah Palmer Cup are being reviewed with the northern section of the women's provincial competition due to kickoff in Auckland next weekend.
"We're taking a breath at the moment. We've only had this news for a couple of hours."
Just as NZR was beginning to get back on its feet after laying off 40 staff during the first nationwide lockdown, the re-emergence of Covid-19 will now hit the governing body in the pocket on multiple fronts.
NZR, as a 40 per cent shareholder in the Blues, will share in the $800,000 to $1 million loss of gate revenue from the cancelled match, and may then have to forgo at least one significant broadcast payment.
"There's consequences for two organisations. The Blues get the benefit of the gate, as do all Super Rugby sides when they host fixtures. Even if the game went ahead with no crowd they would be taking a significant hit.
"There's also potentially broadcast revenue. We'll slowly work through that and talk with Sky who are close partners of ours."
As with everyone in these troubling times, NZR is left to ponder a delicate and uncertain landscape.