Expect the Richie Mo'unga versus Beauden Barrett battle to reach a crescendo in the next three weeks.
As the days tick down to Ian Foster's first All Blacks squad naming on August 30 there is no shortage of selection debates. The loose forwards, where Lachlan Boshier and Dalton Papalii continue to shine, and outside backs, with rookie Blues wing Caleb Clarke leading the charge, will be hotly contested among the 35 man squad.
While Mo'unga and Barrett are certainties to make that squad, and the latter remains a classy fullback option, the coveted All Blacks No 10 jersey is up for grabs.
On the back of New Zealand's two dominant forward packs, the performances of both playmakers makes it clear how much they want that role, too.
Mo'unga's Crusaders have the chance to clinch the Super Rugby Aotearoa title in Christchurch this weekend while the Blues have the bye.
Regardless of the outcome of that match against the Highlanders, however, the final round rematch between the Blues and Crusaders at Eden Park will be billed as Mo'unga against Barrett; Barrett against Mo'unga.
The duo are then expected to get one more crack at stating their respective cases for the 10 jersey in the North against South match, one day before Foster names his maiden squad.
Mo'unga is the incumbent, having held the All Blacks mantle at 10 during last year's World Cup. Like many established All Blacks, the likes of Aaron Smith, Codie Taylor and Patrick Tuipulotu, the disappointment of the semifinal defeat appears to be fuelling Mo'unga this season.
After watching his performance against the Chiefs in Hamilton last weekend a respected former All Blacks coach told the Herald that Mo'unga could become a "great of our game".
Mo'unga's goal kicking hasn't been at the optimal standard – he pushed the difficult sideline strike to tie the contest during Crusaders first home loss in four years with the Hurricanes in Christchurch, and missed four conversions against the Chiefs.
His general game, though, has improved markedly since lockdown. Watching his ability to pop in and out of first receiver; to put the foot down and target mismatches in defence and offload in contact is a magical live experience.
No more was his influence more evident this season than in the victory over the Blues when sparking a comeback with his quick restart – yet that's only one example.
Crusaders coach Scott Robertson, who is on course for a fourth straight Super Rugby title, explained the growth in Mo'unga's voice and authority after shifting him to second-five for the latter stages of the Chiefs match.
"When you've got probably the best 10 in the world you want to keep him on," Robertson said.
"I was fortunate that the start of my career was the start of his in 2014 when he came into Canterbury. We've had a lot of success together. Every coach needs a good quarterback and he is one of those.
"He's always been mature but he can control the whole game now. He's got the confidence to control the whole game and his team. He's pretty clear with what he wants from us and he lets the boys know what's required."
As impressive as Mo'unga has been, Barrett's case at 10 is growing more compelling each week too. Barrett has only enjoyed two starts in his preferred position in the past year – both in the last two weeks for the Blues.
In Dunedin last weekend Barrett carried a debilitating rib injury into the convincing win over the Highlanders – he could barely sit down and stand up after the win over the Chiefs at Eden Park one week earlier, which speaks to his mental toughness to play through pain.
Barrett's ability to switch into a world-class, 93kg fullback is a bonus for any coach but the debate about his best position should be put to bed.
First and foremost, he will always be a 10.
Barrett is at his most lethal with the ball in two hands, challenging the line, using his speed, vision, variety of passing and kicking options as he did to pick apart the Highlanders. He wants the responsibility that comes with driving any team.
Missing two conversions and one penalty against the Highlanders won't help perceptions of his goal kicking, either, but the more time he spends at 10 for the Blues, the more influential Barrett becomes.
Foster's decision of who to start at 10 this test season may be somewhat influenced by Barrett's sabbatical from Super Rugby in Japan next year. He may feel the All Blacks are better served investing in Mo'unga, which would probably leave a choice between Jordie and Beauden Barrett for the starting fullback, and now inherent dual playmaker, roles.
Barrett's recent form suggests he will make that decision as difficult as possible for Foster, though. After a late start to the season, and a patient wait for his chance at 10 for the Blues, Barrett is lengthening his stride for the home straight sprint into this year's uncertain test campaign.