Sam Cane didn't believe the All Blacks coaches had set a realistic goal when they explained they wanted this year's side to be better than the class of 2015 who had become the first team to win back-to-back World Cups.
Coach Steve Hansen set out his vision to the senior leadership group at the start of the season and, as much as Cane wanted to believe it, admits he had his doubts. The phrase the coaches used was re-establishment, not rebuilding.
"Better than last year? Probably not," Cane says in an interview with Tony Veitch to be broadcast on Newstalk ZB this afternoon. "As soon as you hear that, that we are not rebuilding, that sparks something.
"When we first assembled, there was real excitement but also a bit of uncertainty around the group knowing we had lost more than 800 test caps, and some of them our greatest All Blacks ever."
The results have been spectacular. Not only are the All Blacks on a 15-match winning run, having already sewn up this year's Rugby Championship with two games remaining, they are also playing a style of rugby no team can live with.
"It seems to be ticking along quite nicely," Cane said.
A feature of the side has been the impact of relative newcomers such as Ryan Crotty, Anton Lienert-Brown and Ardie Savea. For Cane, the arrival of the younger Savea brother has been significant, especially as he had to deal with the cloak of Richie McCaw for the first four years of his All Blacks career. Now some fans are clamouring for Savea to start ahead of Cane. The Chiefs flanker has taken a phlegmatic approach to things but admits it's a new position to be in.
"I try to look at the Richie side of things by saying I was pretty fortunate in my first four years in the All Blacks to work alongside him. I'm pretty sure in 10 years I will appreciate it even more.
"There hasn't been too much talk about comparing myself and Richie. It's Ardie and myself. It's the first time in my career that I'm seen as the more established player. I was always the one trying to come up and challenge.
"It's not more motivating [the fact he is now the hunted]. I'm pretty motivated anyway and it doesn't matter what team I'm playing for.
"What I tried to do was take that weight off my shoulders and try to enjoy my training week a little more without that added pressure. I just go out there and try to do the best I can. It helps that the team is humming in these games, so it's easier to do my role.
"We want to win every game and do it in the most dominant fashion we can. It's not always achievable but we've been able to get most of it right in the last month or so. You only have to look back to know it doesn't last, so I think everyone should just enjoy it."