WITH the in-bound test series finished for 2012, thought we'd astral travel a bit, and investigate what we were delivered.
For mine, the defining themes have been the superiority of the All Blacks, the impact of the penalty/penalty-shot-at-goal nexus and the dominance of the southern hemisphere teams.
The All Blacks were far and away superior to all other teams on offer: Australia, Wales, South Africa, England and Ireland.
The All Blacks' attack was far more fluent and clinical, and, for the most part, they displayed far more positive intent.
Not only was the All Blacks' play way ahead of all other teams, the games they played in were far more entertaining than all the other games.
Which leads me to the second theme.
In all games except those involving the All Blacks, there was far too much influence of the penalty/penalty-shot-at-goal nexus to the spectacle.
I wish I could write a column which does not include it, but the interplay between penalties and the penalty-shot-at-goal dominated the in-bound tests.
Any (even semi-regular) reader of this column will know my (strong) opinions on this point. So I won't dwell on it.
Now, taken collectively, were the in-bound tests positive promotional instruments for rugby?
To answer that, we must dissect the audience into rugby and non-rugby segments.
If you are a 'rugby person' then you quite possibly enjoyed the contests.
If you're a non-rugby person, then, quite possibly, you'd be unsatisfied.
And depending on the importance an individual places on either segment on the future of the code, provides you with an answer.
But let's finish with the number one positive.
All three southern hemisphere teams were undefeated across the nine tests (excluding the aberration that was the Tuesday Test v the Scots).
While the Aussies were lucky to win two of their three tests, overall the level of rugby played by us southern hemisphere-ites demonstrated our historical dominance over the bad guys from the north.
Super Rugby's back
SUPER Rugby returns this Friday with two local derbies in the Highlanders v Chiefs and Reds v Rebels' fixtures.
And you couldn't ask for two more important or potentially entertaining affairs to reignite the competition.
The outcome of the two games goes a long way to determine the future of the Reds and the Highlanders' seasons and possible home finals for the Chiefs.
For the Aussie teams still in finals contention, the Brumbies and Reds, things look pretty damn exciting over the next three weeks.
It's that close that even after next Friday's games the future will be no clearer for all teams still in finals contention.
For the Reds, James Horwill's absence due to injury could be a major blow.
He offers much in the way of abrasiveness to their forward play, and, of course, his leadership will be missed.
I must say, I'm really looking forward to the remaining three weeks of competition games and finals of the Super 15.
The further you move away from the top tier, generally speaking, the more open and entertaining are the games.