All Blacks defeat to South Africa could be the worst result for their rivals

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South Africa's Pieter-Steph du Toit

The reverberations felt around the rugby world following New Zealand’s defeat to South Africa on Saturday have been vast.

At the time there was a sense of the surreal, and almost an expectation the All Blacks would pull it out of the bag and escape with a hard-fought win. Even down to the last play they were knocking on the door, and but for a Damian McKenzie knock-on they might have just done it.

As it was the Springboks clinched their first win on Kiwi soil in nine years, and the emotion of the achievement was very real.

Pieter-Steph du Toit, a colossus on the day, was in tears, his team-mates embraced with a raw emotion of men who looked like they had just conquered their Everest.

And they had every right to. They had waited almost a decade to down this beast we have built up to an almost mythical level.

However, what has been said in the aftermath has more than touched on the hyperbolic.

We have had question marks over New Zealand’s pedigree ahead of next year’s World Cup, the idea that Ireland will now be licking their lips ahead of the clash in November, and even the chances of the Kiwi’s being toppled at the number one ranked side in the world.

Let’s not lose our minds too quickly here.

This is a side that lost by two points. They hacked away eight points thanks to the wayward boot of Beauden Barrett, and gave away two pretty inexplicable tries.

The first a misjudged quick throw from Beauden’s brother, Jordie. The second came about as a result of an intercepted Anton Lienert-Brown pass.

Beauden Barrett

Beauden Barrett

That’s a 22-point swing when it comes to the scoreboard. Now, that is not to say mistakes don’t usually happen, but this level of accumulation is about as rare as anything you’ll see on a rugby field.

Instead of filling the rugby world with hope, this result could be the worst thing that could have happened.

One thing the All Blacks have been masters of in the past is regrouping and bouncing back. We have to go back to 2011 to find their last back-to-back defeats – when South Africa and Australia turned them over in the space of a week.

In the seven years since then, they have lost just seven times, winning on 86 occasions, and drawing three.

It’s fair to say, when there is an issue they hammer it out pretty quickly.

In this instance, that comes down to some decision making – in the forms of Jordi Barrett and Anton Lienert-Brown, and what now must be the change in their goal kicker.

These wounds are by no means terminal. The bad news for the rest is; in the grand scheme of things – did Saturday even matter?

A dejected New Zealand squad

A dejected New Zealand squad

If you want the All Blacks to have an off-day, then you want it to be for all the marbles. A relatively inconsequential fixture in the Rugby Championship, a completion they have almost certainly secured, is not the fixture you want to see them at their worst in.

Roll the clock back to 2007, and that World Cup quarter final against France in Cardiff, and that’s the sort of scenario you envisage when you talk about capitalising on a poor performance.

That day will go down in rugby folklore as the day a side which was pretty-much destined to lift the trophy failed to fire on the grandest of stages – a fact we still talk about it more than a decade on tells us just how important the defeat was.

Will we talk about the day the Springboks beat the All Black in Wellington by a couple of points in years to come? Of course not.

This is likely to be a mere bump in the road which galvanises further the best side in the world, and that is a very worrying thought.

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