Keven Mealamu had only genuine compassion for injured teammate Andrew Hore - that is his nature - but the nuggety veteran has been given a gold-plated chance to regain his starting role with the All Blacks.
Mealamu has added a further 11 caps this season to sit on 61 test appearances but his contribution this year has all come from the bench as Hore has dominated the starting hooker's duties.
But that golden run for Hore came to a season end on Saturday night when he was replaced just four minutes into the historic offshore test in Hong Kong after suffering a serious ankle injury. X-rays revealed he had suffered similar damage to his left ankle that skipper Richie McCaw sustained this season.
So while the All Blacks were delayed seven hours by an aircraft connection before heading off to another Grand Slam tilt in Europe, Hore was returning home. The selectors took some time before announcing Hikawera Elliot would be his replacement.
Elliot has shifted out of the Hurricanes franchise next year to the Chiefs, to give him consistent matchplay instead of duelling with Hore. He had a taste of life in the All Blacks when he spent some time with them in camp mid-year but was bypassed for the third hooking place on this tour by Corey Flynn.
Lack of experience was one reason but forwards coach Steve Hansen was unwilling to go any deeper into why Elliot did not make the original 35-strong selection.
Hore was likely to make a full recovery.
Mealamu's experience counted for plenty in the torrid last chapter of transtasman action this season when he came on for almost the entire test. He had been talking to the trainer to discuss warmup sessions during Saturday's 19-14 victory when he got the replacement call above the din of the 39,682 crowd.
"It was not too bad but the body starts going backwards when you are out that long, you feel it in the skills and sharpness," Mealamu said of his extended substitute role. "It is the way it is. You do a lot of training but it is not a substitute though for taking the impact. Coming on for 70 rather than 20 minutes is a big difference."
The 29-year-old clicked into gear strongly with accurate lineout throws, his allround work and cohesive scrummaging in the middle of the revamped frontrow.
It had been a short week's preparation for the All Blacks and they took some time to get into the test as they turned 9-14 down with three Daniel Carter penalties to measure against the two Wallaby converted tries. There were some strong messages from the coaching staff, some change of tactics, an invaluable converted try straight after the break before Carter moved into first five eighths as Stephen Donald left and Ma'a Nonu came on.
The All Blacks still lacked some cohesion but they were gaining more possession, more field position and building pressure on a Wallaby side which started fast but faded.
"The guys would have said that they won ugly but they got better," coach Graham Henry said. "They got much better as the game went on, they played much better in the second half than the first in what was a typical All Black-Wallaby test match.
"Hard as hell and our guys showed enough guts to get through and win."
As the test wore on, the All Blacks had increased their pace, rhythm and urgency, they altered their tactics to kick in behind the Wallabies but they had taken their time to get the feel and pulse of their first international in almost two months.
McCaw, who scored the final quarter match-breaking try, said conditions were warm though he was not bothered too much by the humidity, more by the time it took his side to find some of their fluency.
The Wallabies looked a much slicker unit in the opening half of a test which never really reached great standards as the players had some trouble with their footing on the turf while both teams looked a little over-anxious after their international hiatus.
It was a bit like a repeat of the Bledisloe Cup clincher in Brisbane with the All Blacks conceding a lead then clawing their way back to victory as the possession dried up for the Wallabies who could then not regain their early ascendancy.
"We were rusty," backline coach Wayne Smith said. "But I think we showed an interesting amount of mental hardness in the second half because we knew we had to attack, we wanted to go wide down that channel where we scored a couple of tries. It took a bit of guts and mental fortitude I think to get there because the ball was slippery, we were under pressure ... so I take my hat off to the boys."
At fullback Isaia Toeava had responded well to his late inclusion and the questions which have surrounded his ability as a test player.
It was a difficult test debut for Hosea Gear and a tough start for Donald who played when the All Blacks did not have much dominance except in the lineout and from referee Alan Lewis' interpretations. The scrummaging was tough but Henry had been delighted by the discipline from his team and their adaptation to the law changes.