The big dance of the playoffs is nine days away, but nobody knows who their partner is yet, as the round robin for Tasman Tanning Division 1 finishes on Saturday with all three match outcomes having likely bearing on the final shape of the Top 4.
The toughest match to predict will be the last Grand Hotel Challenge Shield fixture of 2019 at Memorial Park, and when it comes to who will visit the pub with the $500 voucher in hand, holders Waverley Harvesting Border have the form, but hosts Byford's Readimix Taihape have the recent history.
Back at Spriggens Park, Dave Hoskin Carriers Marist's painful trip down "murderers row", facing all the other semifinal contenders consecutively, ends with the toughest inmate of them all in table leaders McCarthy's Transport Ruapehu.
Mathematically still hanging by the barest of threads for making the semifinals, provided a victorious Border could stop Taihape picking up any bonus points, Marist represent an awkward final round game for Ruapehu, who are safe for a home semifinal, although they don't know against who.
"There's not much in the points, one wrong game away from changing the whole system," said manager Mark Green.
"Marist are a bit of upsetters for Rua, they've done it in the past.
"We'll have to come firing, I suppose. I know Marist will.
"They'll let everything go. You just got to play."
The home side have beaten Ruapehu once out of their two regular season games for the past three years, including in the second round consecutively.
Even after dropping their last three matches, and despite the red-card for their incumbent Steelform Wanganui prop Viki Tofa last Saturday in the first minute against Border, a motivated Marist remain dangerous.
At hooker, Wanganui squad member Jack Yarrall will want to test himself against Ruapehu's top rake Roman Tutauha, while there is no point in the likes of veterans Brad Graham, Simon Dibben, Ricky Alabaster and Sean Brown holding anything back if this proves the last match of the season.
A couple of Ruapehu's younger players may also have a point to prove.
Despite having won ten of their 11 games this season, including 34-27 over Marist in their first meeting in Ohakune, Ruapehu had 'only' seven players named in the initial wider training group of 42 to prepare for Wanganui's upcoming Mitre 10 Heartland Championship campaign.
Standout loose forward Jamie Hughes is a noteworthy absentee although this would be due to confirming availability, certainly not lack of form, while the usual suspects like Tutauha, Campbell Hart, Gabriel Hakaraia and Troy Brown were certainties.
However, fullback Mitchell Millar, returning to his play his old club on Saturday, was perhaps a surprise omission, after becoming the first club player in 2019 to raise over a century of points last weekend against Harvey Round Motors Ratana, now sitting on 103.
Green agreed Millar has grown into his position in the team, in much the same way the halves combination of Kahl Evers-Green and Josh Fifita had to in their first season without the guiding hand of Craig Clare, now with Border.
"[Millar's] come on leaps and bounds, since he's been around," said Green.
After their match at a muddy Ratana Pa was called off early in the fourth quarter, Ruapehu have no major injury concerns as they prepare themselves for this final three weeks of matches to try and earn the rare championship three-peat.
Aiming to bring the Shield back from Taihape while hanging onto their home semifinal spot, Border coach Ross Williams finally consented to studying the points table this week, but has concluded his mindset hasn't really changed from when he wouldn't.
"Win. Put in a performance," he said of their longest trip of the campaign.
"If you're looking at the table, you're not focusing on the job you've got.
"You can't focus on next week, it's irrelevant right now.
"We've got to improve - the score from last week probably flattered us a little bit, [with] Viki's red, that was unfortunate for both teams."
Having been sick with flu, Border may miss their promising midfielder Te Kepa Grindlay, perhaps another surprise Wanganui squad omission since the former Taranaki Maori representative shifted south for a crack at NPC rugby, coming into his own during the second round.
A bonus was prop Kamipeli Latu came back early last week to make a 30 minute cameo off the bench, before reclaiming his spot for tomorrow's big away game – crucial as Taihape are expecting back Wiremu Cottrell, himself missed in their one-point loss to Wanganui Car Centre Kaierau.
Normally, this time of year is where clubs want to settle on a concrete starting XV, but given Border have had an 8-3 campaign with a different run-on side every week, Williams is comfortable there is enough built-in familiarity now for players to have continuity with whomever is alongside them.
"The beauty of the guys we've got, a lot of them play a lot of positions, and have done this year.
"The door's not closed [on swapping]."
Latu's return, for example, gives Border a four-man prop group with Hamish Mellow, Ross McDonald and Ranato Tikoisolomone.
"It's about keeping them fit, we've got a lot of tidy up, but you can't change the world at this time of year."
In their history, Taihape has only four wins from 17 games with Border, but all of them have been at Memorial Park, including 37-14 last season with much the same squad as they have now.
Taihape, who lost to Shield to Border in the last second of play, 10-9 back on April 6 in Waverley, would also like another repeat from 2018 when they won the prize off Marist in the final game, meaning they kept it for the summer for the first time.
Williams said they will keep to the usual travel schedule of an 11am departure from home, with a stop to stretch along the way, although he admits that doesn't seem to have worked well in the past.
"It's on the individual, that 2.28pm to 2.30pm [before kickoff] are a couple of big minutes.
"If we lose, we won't blame the travel."
Like Marist if they can pull the upset, Kaierau will be very interested in the final result at Memorial Park, as baring the unforseen, they appear likely to pick up the five points against Ratana in the Pa on Saturday, which could see them leapfrog a beaten Border into the other home semifinal position.