COMMENT by Gregor Paul in Tokyo:
The All Blacks really do have a miraculous ability to bring the best out of whoever they play.
They don't have to do much to elevate opponents from hapless to inspired.
It's an effortless business for them to magically transform teams without the faintest hope or shred of confidence into the sort of cohesive and dynamic units they have long aspired to be.
Just turn up and be themselves seems to be enough to do it every time.
That target on their back is always there and every team the All Blacks ever play finds a way to shoot for it.
But that ability of theirs to bring the best out of others has intensified at this World Cup.
It's not just that they are defending champions, it's also because they are playing like defending champions.
Other than Japan's brilliance in beating Ireland, it hasn't been a World Cup to fire the imagination. The giant exception is the All Blacks whose creativity and basic skills have been on a different level and if they were widely liked in Japan before they arrived, respect and admiration has shifted off the scale since they have been here.
Their last try against Namibia was of such quality that the 19 other teams could try to reproduce it from now until eternity and never get close to a remotely comparable re-enactment.
That's why more than half the crowd at Tokyo Stadium were wearing black and only a fraction of them were from New Zealand.
It has been the All Blacks' show for most of this tournament so far and the hype that surrounds them and the excitement they bring is fuelling opponents.
It is demanding opponents to lift, to give more: to give everything like Canada did and now Namibia.
A few weeks ago most of the Namibians were making 400km round trips to train between work shifts and yet for the first half, they looked like the kings of high performance.
The contest for 40 minutes was absolutely genuine. Somehow a group of mostly amateur players, most of whom would do well to hold places in the Mitre 10 Cup, were surging through holes they had seemingly effortlessly created against the best team in the world.
For 40 minutes it wasn't easy to see why the Namibians were ranked 23 and New Zealand one.
The gap looked smaller, much smaller and when Nepo Laulala was yellow-carded after 30 minutes when the All Blacks lead was just one point, the faintly ludicrous prospect of a massive upset loomed into view.
The fairytale couldn't last of course, but it existed for long enough to shine a beam of light into the future and see the danger that lies ahead for the All Blacks.
They can't underestimate their ability in these next few weeks to spark a fire in whoever it is they end up playing.
The Italians are next and while they were awful in their last game against the Springboks, just watch them gather up what pride they have left and do the old Clark Kent transition when they face the All Blacks.
Italy could barely string two passes together against the Springboks but just watch them flow in Toyota City. And they will defend with their hearts as much as their shoulders and a team that no one quite knows why are still in the Six Nations will give a performance for the ages.
And after that, the danger only gets higher. If it's Ireland they meet, then beware. For a long time in the past, all the Irish had was emotion and they could be terrible for years on end, lifting only for the occasional visit from New Zealand when they would suddenly be world-beaters.
Even last year, when Ireland were in cracking form, it was noticeable how they lifted to a new level when they met the All Blacks in Dublin.
There was an accuracy and speed to their game that hasn't been seen since and while they have looked like a side with the imagination of a 1960s communist town planner at this World Cup, the transformation will come should they meet the All Blacks.
If it is Japan, the mind frankly boggles at what sort of lift they will be capable of. Playing at home, in their first World Cup knockout game? It's frightening to imagine just how good they could be when they see those black shirts and let the haka wash over them.
Not that the All Blacks particularly needed a reminder of the magical power they possess to inspire others, but Namibia providing them with one was welcome nonetheless.