Gone are the good old days when the referee was king and the scoreboard was all that counted.
The build-up to the final weekend of the Rugby Championship should be about a clash of the titans but it is not.
Instead, it has revolved around how the Springboks might score four tries and ensure that the All Blacks are beaten by more than seven points. When too much emphasis is placed on bonus points, yellow and red cards and how the referee or TMO might behave, then rugby has lost its way.
There are those who would do away with the bonus point and card system tomorrow. The same people who regard that as an impossibility might like to remember that the new scrumming laws are not very different from those that pertained 20 years ago. And then, as now, the referee had the final say over what constitutes a legal scrum.
The bonus point system was instituted by Sanzar to try to measure the true gap between winning and losing teams.
But old-timers will tell you that one point either way on the scoreboard remains the only important difference. And, ultimately, if the Springboks beat the All Blacks by a point on Saturday at Ellis Park, they will lose the championship but win a large portion of self-esteem.
At the halfway point between World Cups that should be more important.
In the cold light of day, if South Africa could not score four tries against Australia in Cape Town they will assuredly not do so against New Zealand in Johannesburg. And if the next benchmark is to win by more than seven points, then history is against them. In 11 matches against the All Blacks in Johannesburg, only twice has that mark been achieved. The 1960 Boks won 13-0 and the 2004 side won 40-26. New Zealand won three of the other nine contests and lost by fewer than seven points in the remainder.
Demonstrably, this is not a great All Black team. They have struggled twice to subdue Argentina this season and would have been tested by South Africa if the Boks had managed to keep 15 men on the park for more than half an hour. And yet the Kiwis scored four tries in two of those three games. It is fair to say that they know the way to the line far better than their opponents.
Then there is the vexed question of tactical nous. At the end of the first quarter at Newlands last week, the Boks led the Wallabies 20-3. A fast passing game that was the direct result of forward dominance threatened to put Australia to the sword. Yet the last hour of the game was shared 8-8 as the referee dished out two cards to the Boks and one to Australia.
This did not just happen; the Boks were complicit.
Fourie du Preez, Morné Steyn and Zane Kirchner were the principal culprits, kicking away hard-won ball as if that was the whole point of the game. The Wallabies could not believe their luck. Instead of trying and failing to repel wave after wave of ball carriers, they were able to fall back and defend an aerial bombardment with relative ease.
The Wallabies were never in the game as a contest but the rare opportunity for the Boks to humiliate a feared opponent was lost.
They were not helped by having to play with 14 men for 20 minutes. The column inches devoted to the ill-treatment of Bismarck du Plessis in Auckland notwithstanding, the referee may be deemed to have been lenient in Cape Town.
Flip van der Merwe's ill-judged charge earned him a week off once the citing officer became involved, while the usually clear-thinking Duane Vermeulen will not be proud of the moment that earned him 10 minutes in the cooler.
The nonavailability of Van der Merwe should have no material effect on South Africa's chances this week. In 31 Tests spread over four years, the giant lock has never offered much more than bulk and attitude.
And yet coach Heyneke Meyer believes himself so short of options in the engine room that he has called up Franco van der Merwe as cover, a journeyman who would never have sniffed a Test cap 10 years ago.
Franco van der Merwe's place on the bench for Saturday's game with Juandré Kruger's return to the starting line up are the two most glaring weaknesses in the side.
It seems more than a little odd that Meyer had the gumption to call Pieter-Steph du Toit into the squad last week but has overlooked the gifted youngster this week.
Elsewhere, as ever, it would have been encouraging if a place had been found for Pat Lambie, either in place of Steyn at flyhalf or Kirchner at fullback.
At the very least, it would have amounted to a statement of intent but the booming right boot of Steyn is the equivalent of a worry blanket for the coach, even when he knows that he needs creativity ahead of solidity this week.
We should hope fervently for two things: firstly, that 15-a-side is maintained for the duration of the match and, secondly, that the quality of the contest between the two best sides in the world makes us forget, even if it is only for 80 minutes, that there are bonus points at stake.