Steve Hansen has lost his magic touch while Australia's beleaguered Wallabies found theirs.

Saturday night was a minor watershed for rugby, as a rain splattered Bledisloe Cup clash labelled a dead rubber injected the international game with at least some new life.

To my mind, coach Hansen's dry demeanour is not quite hitting the bullseye publicly anymore because it fails to properly reflect what is happening on the field or the depth of feeling among All Black fans when things go astray.

And you wonder if it is also starting to miss the mark in the dressing room and practice grounds.


A year dotted with brilliance has also been a bit of a shambles.

If the All Blacks were to play dominant rugby on another long winning streak, fair enough.

But to keep winning in Jekyll and Hyde mode is another matter. This loss was a long time coming.

Hansen's wonderful run as the coach-without-peer is over as a confusing year of erratic performances have culminated for now in a nailbiter spiked with memorable tackles and defeat at Brisbane's magnificent football arena.

One staggering performance against South Africa at Albany and triumphant close calls elsewhere don't mask the truth. Too many things have gone wrong in 2017 to consider Hansen at the top of his considerable game.

He can rewind the line about the sun still coming up when the All Blacks lose all he likes, but a potentially disastrous sunset awaits unless the All Blacks' direction is seriously tweaked.

His coaching staff has undergone a singular but significant change, with the legendary Wayne Smith having stepped aside for defence specialist Scott McLeod. You wonder if a new attack coach is also needed.

The All Blacks' offence has looked stale particularly against the cobbled-together British and Irish Lions, whose back moves were more inventive. The All Blacks often rely on individual moments of brilliance, a la Rieko Ioane and Damian McKenzie in Cape Town, and Sonny Bill Williams at Suncorp.

The best individual run by a forward in Brisbane came from lightweight Wallaby No. 8 Sean McMahon who brushed off four tacklers late in the game, while the All Blacks failed to really dent the defence. The All Blacks have produced nothing all season to match what some of the Springboks did to them at Newlands.

And when the final hopes in a big test evaporate on a stupid Ofa Tu'ungafasi penalty, pointless SBW grubber kick and Sam Cane knock on, you know that the legendary All Black confidence and composure has gone

Finally, they ran out of luck.

At the end, Michael Cheika's Australian players celebrated like they had won a trophy in Brisbane, and the sun may no longer shine on at least one All Black's career.

Despite signs in Cape Town that the zap has gone from Lima Sopoaga's legs, he was stationed at first five-eighths leaving all the energy that Damian McKenzie could bring adrift at fullback. Sopoaga's excellent goal and line kicking weren't sufficient compensation.

These All Blacks selectors are guided by a mysterious master plan, rather than what is totally best for the immediate assignment. Rest and rotation, based on far-ahead planning, has reared its head.

Australia deserve the plaudits however.

After a winless Super Rugby season against New Zealand teams, and many test defeats, the Aussie players could celebrate. It was a wonderful farewell for Stephen Moore, as fine a warrior as we've seen in the green and gold. He has taken the fight to the opposition through thick and thin, often in under-powered teams.

And there was something emotionally stirring about their one-off "indigenous" jerseys, the addition of the Aboriginal motifs an idea promoted by their inside back Kurtley Beale.

Ironically, the match actually highlighted how the influence of other nations is driving the Wallabies now. About half of their match day 23 are of Polynesian/Melanesian heritage, and a surprising number of the overall squad are born in New Zealand.

It's the new deal. Australia turned down kicks at goal, taking the game to New Zealand. Under intense pressure, they showed the courage of their convictions. Trans-Tasman contest back on? Hope so.