New Zealand rugby has long been characterised by sweeping movements, stunning counter-attacks and superb finishing. Every year new, dynamic talent emerges in this vein. Yet the asset that may separate Sky Super Rugby Aotearoa's best from the rest this season is grunt over guile.
Blanket, early judgements are fraught with danger, particularly with the Chiefs yet to front, but the Crusaders and Blues clearly laid down markers in the opening round.
The championship trait they share? Fearsome scrummaging.
Boasting the competition's best forward packs, the Blues and Crusaders seem destined to square off in this year's inaugural final.
In pristine conditions under the Dunedin roof All Blacks wing Sevu Reece rekindled his best form to pop up all over the park in the opening match - finishing one try with a full-length dive in the corner, and setting up Bryn Hall with an audacious centring kick on another occasion.
While Reece's brilliant touches dominate highlight packages, the Rolls Royce engine room, as it so often does, laid the platform for the Crusaders victory.
Much has been made of the Crusaders' rolling maul defence. Indeed, Jason Ryan deserves immense credit for an area he has become world-leading in devising defensive strategies. So, too, though, must Ryan take great pride in the Crusaders scrum which consistently demolished the Highlanders to send shivers through the competition.
Joe Moody's hot-headed tendencies will irk All Blacks coach Ian Foster who made it clear in his appearance on Sky's Breakdown show that he is demanding vastly improved discipline this season, as well as much sharper ball skills across the board.
Moody should have copped a yellow card in the opening exchanges as he lashed out with an open palm to repeatedly smack Highlanders lock Jack Regan in the face, after retaliating for being held by the jersey.
While his temperament can be questioned Moody remains one of the world's leading loosehead props - just ask Highlanders opposite Siate Tokolahi after he endured a hellish night on the receiving end of Moody's precise power.
The ripple effects of any malfunctioning set piece are far-reaching.
As much as the cynical Crusaders infringing had a major impact on the result, the Highlanders lineout capitulating after former All Blacks hooker Liam Coltman replaced Ash Dixon, coupled with their backpedalling scrum and two wayward cross-kicks from Mitch Hunt in the 22, significantly hurt the locals.
Scrummaging for penalties is often associated with Northern Hemisphere teams – yet with Scott Barrett and Sam Whitelock digging their long studs to shunt fellow All Blacks Moody, Codie Taylor and now-experienced Samoan international Michael Alaalatoa forward, the Crusaders tight five would back themselves to take on the world's best.
The following night in Wellington, where the Blues' ridiculous front-row depth was on display for the first time, a similar theme evolved.
There's a sense of irony, too, that as the game's rule makers attempt to minimise scrum time with the introduction of the goal line drop out, the Crusaders and Blues emphasised the set piece influence.
Samoan international James Lay made an impressive debut at loosehead prop for the Blues - after returning home from three years with Pat Lam's Bristol Bears - to get the better of All Blacks opponent Tyrel Lomax.
The scary part about Lay's debut? The other Blues props – Nepo Laulala, Alex Hodgman, Karl Tu'inukuafe and Ofa Tu'ungafasi - are All Blacks.
What the Hurricanes, Highlanders and to a lesser extent the Chiefs would give for either Tu'inukuafe and Tu'ungafasi propping up their scrums. The Blues, meanwhile, brought both All Blacks props off their bench against the Hurricanes.
With Warriors captain Roger Tuivasa-Sheck arriving next season, and whispers Jordie Barrett could yet join him, rival franchises must be close to calling salary cap auditors on the Blues.
It's easy to get swept up in Caleb Clarke and Rieko Ioane's captivating talent but the strength of the Blues this season is not their backline, but the forward pack.
Even without Beauden Barrett their pack elevates them to genuine title contenders. Tom Robinson (bench), Hodgman, one-test All Blacks flanker Dillion Hunt, who has switched from the Highlanders, Blake Gibson (all injured) did not make last week's starting team.
As it was All Blacks Hoskins Sotutu, Dalton Papalii and Akira Ioane provided a seriously stacked loose trio – and Patrick Tuipulotu is a powerhouse presence at lock.
In a physically brutal season, one that may yet force New Zealand teams to endure three derby rounds if the transtasman component is scrapped due to Covid-19, the depth of the Blues forward pack will become an increasingly obvious weapon.
Based on their scrum dominance last week, the Crusaders may be the only team to match the Leon MacDonald's side in this instrumental area.