A bit of Super Rugby fatigue set in this week.
The games weren't up to much and thoughts began to turn towards the playoffs. Oh, and it's a world cup year, in case you didn't know.
Praise where it's due
Between injuries and prescribed rests, few first-string All Blacks actually took the park in week 15.
If it weren't for the Rugby World Cup, you assume a few more might've fronted. Whatever the case, the competition is much the poorer when any of those players are absent.
Thanks, then, to Sam Whitelock, Joe Moody, Scott Barrett, Patrick Tuipulotu and Aaron Smith for a) playing, but also b) making it look like they were glad to be playing and had something invested in the result of their matches.
On that note
You feel for Tuipulotu. Thrust into the role of Blues captain, the lock's performances have been nothing short of outstanding.
Always a talented player, Tuipulotu has added consistency and a real hard edge to his game this year.
Ordinarily that kind of example would inspire team-mates. At the Blues, however, it's often left Tuipulotu as The Lone Ranger.
Akira Ioane, for instance, is one who's squandered a wonderful opportunity to gain world cup selection.
There will be some who lament that the Crusaders and Hurricanes might prove New Zealand's only playoff participants. The All Blacks selectors won't be among them, though.
The looming world cup is one reason why New Zealand sides haven't shone so much this season. The player drain is another.
What shouldn't also be overlooked is coaching. Partly as a result of Steve Hansen's sustained success with the All Blacks, many of our best coaches now work overseas. Particularly the more seasoned ones.
As much as people say we can't continue to lose second-tier and emerging players to foreign clubs, nor can we afford to be without recent coaching departees such as Dave Rennie and Chris Boyd.
Just because someone was a good player, or traces back to a strong coaching tree, doesn't mean they have the nous to run a Super Rugby side.
Speaking of the world cup
As good as Ardie Savea has been this year, it probably won't be enough to make him a starting All Black.
Sam Cane's return to the playing field, and Hansen's hint that Scott Barrett's a contender for blindside flanker, means the loose trio's pretty well complete. Captain Kieran Read has to play at No.8, leaving Savea to presumably sit on the bench.
Time will tell if a Read-Cane-Barrett combo is a little on the conservative side, or just what you need to win the big knockout matches.
Someone tell the Jaguares
It seems our Argentine friends might be the only ones who haven't heard about the world cup.
In isolation, the Jaguares' ascent to the top of the South African conference is a great result for Super Rugby. Between their brand of rugby, and superb fans, the Jaguares are such an asset to the competition. But at what cost?
As impressive as road wins over the Hurricanes and now Waratahs have been, you wonder if stars such as Pablo Matera can summon the strength to play with this ferocity come October.
As for Australia
Just over 6000 people watched the Australian conference-leading Brumbies win this week, while not even the bright and shiny new Bankwest Stadium can attract folk to Waratahs games.
It's actually quite sad to see the state rugby is in over there.
Around the grounds
Good on the Chiefs for their brave win over the Reds. It says something about the spectacle, though, that Glenn Newman's effort as TMO was about the most memorable part of the match.
In Christchurch, the Crusaders were far more dominant over the Blues than the 19-11 scoreline would suggest, while the Highlanders have hit a bit of a wall.
When their best 23 are available, the Highlanders are a handy side. But, for all their effort, they lacked the creativity at 10 and 15 to really test the Stormers in Cape Town.
Team of the week
The Crusaders. Not their most flashy win of the season, but certainly efficient.
Forgive me for not being surprised to hear, though, that the weather in Christchurch can be seasonal. Yes, apparently winter exists in the South Island and rugby grounds can become a little heavy and slippery.
Next thing you know people will be mentioning that altitude can be a factor in South Africa.
All Blacks bolter-watch
Among the many things the Crusaders do well is adapt to circumstances.
Their wings, for instance, aren't just rooted to the spot. They don't say this is my channel and I'm not shifting.
It's not that the neglect their core role or are a positional liability but George Bridge, Sevu Reece, Will Jordan, Braydon Ennor - or whoever's picked there - aren't afraid to pop up elsewhere and make an important contribution.
Bridge is probably an outsider to make the world cup squad, but he'd let no-one down if selected.
Week 15 NZ Form XV
15 - David Havili (Crusaders)
14 - Waisake Naholo (Highlanders)
13 - Jack Goodhue (Crusaders)
12 - Alex Nankivell (Chiefs)
11 - George Bridge (Crusaders)
10 - Richie Mo'unga (Crusaders)
9 - Aaron Smith (Highlanders)
8 - Elliot Dixon (Highlanders)
7 - Matt Todd (Crusaders)
6 - Lachlan Boshier (Chiefs)
5 - Patrick Tuipulotu (Blues)
4 - Scott Barrett (Crusaders)
3 - Nepo Laulala (Chiefs)
2 - Liam Coltman (Highlanders)
1 - Joe Moody (Crusaders)
*Hamish Bidwell is a contributor to Radio New Zealand. He has previously worked at The Northern Advocate, Gisborne Herald, Hawke's Bay Today, The Press, The Dominion Post and Stuff.