This Saturday it will be different: a fired up Boks side who are starting to add adventure to their set-piece efficiency and physical brutality.
If the looming clash at Eden Park wasn’t already the toughest assignment the All Blacks will face this year – it is now.
The importance can’t be overstated both in terms of what it will mean for the Rugby Championship but more importantly, what it will mean longer term for the All Blacks. They have to learn how to be the same team with or without McCaw. They can’t be overly dependent on him or fear not having him and the only way to do that, is to play huge games – win huge games – when he’s not in his No 7 shirt.
So can they do it? Absolutely. Kieran Read was frankly brilliant against Argentina and can inspire by the way he plays. Aaron Smith is sharp and getting sharper and there was enough from Carter to suggest he’s ready to come to play a big one.
Sam Whitelock and Brodie Retallick operated an aggressive lineout and the All Blacks can feel a level of confidence they can match the Boks physically. Backline versus backline…there is more threat in black than green and then there is the Eden Park factor: the All Blacks haven’t lost there since 1994, the Boks haven’t won there since 1928.