A couple of quiet tests and the knives came out for Ben Smith and Rieko Ioane.
In Smith's case, there were even impassioned calls to be off with his head – to dump him quick and leave him at home before he stuffed up the World Cup for the All Blacks.
How quickly the mood turns on veteran players in World Cup year is as peculiar as it is savage given the number of times the tournament has been dominated by older men previously written off.
Dan Carter was in much the same boat in 2015 when the masses were baying for his blood ahead of the squad for England being picked. Too old, too slow and too broken was the gist.
But come the World Cup, Carter was too good, too composed, too together for the rest of the world and he expertly guided the All Blacks to the title.
Smith, may prove to be similarly influential at this World Cup and those who have claimed he's finished, that he's hit the invisible wall older outside backs sometimes do, may end up wishing they had been as patient as the All Blacks selectors.
There have been no red flags with Smith this year, nothing in his physical profile to suggest Father Time has sneaked into his legs and taken residence.
All his scores in fitness testing and speed trials have been good. His form in Super Rugby was excellent. Before he badly damaged a hamstring against the Chiefs, he was mostly working miracles for the Highlanders as he always does.
He probably did return from that hamstring injury a week too soon, but his sharpness has not deserted him, he's running freely again and with all the explosiveness of old.
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Smith didn't play particularly well against Argentina, South Africa or Australia, but his game has not collapsed and the All Blacks coaches are confident they can twiddle with a few mental knobs and have him back to his world class best in Japan.
An athlete's performance ecosystem is often more fragile than people realise and certainly if there is a mental issue, it can be like a virus that affects all parts.
Smith isn't broken or finished, he just didn't have his head in the game during the Rugby Championship.
And if there is one thing this All Blacks coaching group is particularly good at, it is identifying what's going on inside the heads of their players and finding ways to fix whatever problems they find.
Smith will most likely start against Tonga next weekend and be given the chance to show that whatever mental baggage he dragged on to the field in Buenos Aires, Wellington and Perth has been left behind and respond to the performance delivered by George Bridge and Sevu Reece at Eden Park.
Ioane will likely be on the other wing in Hamilton, sent into battle with a similar brief to produce the urgency and dynamism of the two wings who played in Auckland.
Much like Smith, Ioane hasn't connected with his true self in 2019, but also like Smith, he's probably not that far away from doing so.
What appears to have gone missing in his game is his physicality. What made him so damaging in 2017 was his muscularity – his ability and desire to run through defenders and challenge them to deal with his 105kg mass coming at them at terminal velocity.
When that fire burns brightly, Ioane is a different proposition and while the rest of the country has decided that Reece and Bridge are now heading to the World Cup as the main act, they most likely still remain in support roles.
They will both see active duty, play a fair bit of rugby as the quick-fire nature of the pool games demands a rotation of resources.
But come the knockout rounds, it will be a surprise if the All Blacks don't pick Smith and Ioane, whose greater experience and wider skill sets will be invaluable.
Come those big games, the rugby will morph into a different shape. Ireland, England, Wales and South Africa will all box kick excessively from halfback and contrary to recent appearances, Smith deals with the high ball better than any other outside back in the country.
It's not just his defensive collections that matter, he is, when he's on form, brilliant at chasing attacking kicks and getting above defenders to win back possession.
He turned the 2015 quarter-final when he amazingly chased a Carter bomb and out-jumped French No 8 Louis Picamoles, to set up Julian Savea for the try that effectively pushed the All Blacks into an unassailable position.
Ioane's trump card is the certainty that defences will fly off the line and so often it will take raw power to break free – for one of the backs to clatter their way through a collision.
Smith and Ioane are far from finished and both are likely to play a massive role at this World Cup.