The question that has stayed close to the top of the All Black selectors' agenda this year is who would they most trust as their goalkicker in the knockout rounds of the World Cup.
The answer, regardless of what statistics may suggest in Super Rugby, is Daniel Carter. Whatever else Carter may or may not be, he remains the man who the coaching panel believe is most likely to bang over critical goals in the big games of a World Cup.
It's that treasured, trusted left boot of his that is keeping him foremost in the minds of the All Black selectors as they project further into the year and consider who will start at No 10.
But while Carter has undisputed goalkicking pedigree, there are other parts of his game that aren't yet functioning well enough to justify selecting him as the first choice No 10. Carter is still to prove that he has confidence in his running game. So far this year he hasn't been willing to impose himself physically - whether it be with or without the ball - the way he used to.
Too often he is shovelling ball and contributing to the Crusaders' lateral attack. Carter of old would have taken responsibility for straightening the attack and challenging the line; of thrusting himself into the fray to put pressure on the defensive line.
Understandably, there are some long-term observers wondering whether Carter can rekindle his game. The All Black selectors are likely to be at the mild end of that scale: confident, but not overly so, that while Carter isn't ever going to be the player he was in 2005, he can still be the best first-five in New Zealand.
With 102 test caps and a world record 1457 points, Carter has proven himself as a world class goalkicker since he nailed his first kick against Wales in June 2003. His overall success ratio in test football of 77 per cent places him at the top end of the regular, elite kickers.
A comprehensive research project by New Zealand Rugby's Ken Quarrie published last year, found the average success ratio in test rugby between 2002 and 2011 was 72 per cent and based on the raw data, Carter was ranked 19th overall.
When the numbers were adjusted to factor in the length and angle of the kick; the perceived pressure based on a formula of score in the game against time left and the difficulty factor of the venue, Carter was ranked third.
And it's that proven ability of his to successfully convert difficult kicks at critical times that make him such a vital piece of the World Cup jigsaw. Under pressure, Carter remains the best goalkicker in the country and unquestionably, knock-out games at the World Cup are going to see the All Blacks come under the most intense pressure.
World Cup history has been consistent and therefore serves as an accurate guide to safely predict that the outcome of the biggest games will be determined by goalkicking. New Zealand travel to England as defending champions thanks to Stephen Donald's 45-metre second-half goal at Eden Park.
South Africa won the 2007 final 15-6 - all the points coming from penalties and in 2003, Elton Flatley and Jonny Wilkinson traded penalties until the latter separated the two teams with a drop goal in the 100th minute.
In the seven World Cup finals so far, 77 per cent of all the points scored have come from goalkicks - be it penalties, conversions or drop goals. The semifinals in 2011 threw up a similar picture with only two tries in total being scored.
None of this has escaped the attention of the All Black coaches and goalkicking will carry a heavy weighting when they come to select their starting team.
"Goalkicking is high on our agenda both in terms of the importance it carries collectively for the team and also on an individual basis," says All Blacks assistant coach Ian Foster.
"History tells you that it is important and we continue to study it, to monitor it and to work on it. But there are a number of other variables we have to consider in regard to selection as well. We have lost an experienced kicker in Crudes [Aaron Cruden] but Daniel has a proven track record in the international game and Beauden Barrett has been kicking a lot with the Hurricanes and kicking pretty well.
"Sladey [Colin Slade] is probably the most improved and he showed last year he's got the ability to kick pressure goals so while we need world class goalkicking, we are pretty confident we have the players who can deliver it."
They won't judge players so much on Super Rugby numbers - it will be more about previous success in the test arena. Last year Barrett's success rate in the Rugby Championship was 67 per cent. Slade, who kicked only twice in the competition had the same figure but built confidence in his ability to perform under pressure when he came off the bench in Brisbane and slotted a tough last minute conversion to win the test.
It is Carter, though, who has the numbers and the experience to set a nation's nerves at ease.