Teetering on the brink of three successive losses for the first time in 22 years is an unthinkable start to Ian Foster's All Blacks era.
The best case scenario for Foster is his All Blacks extract revenge on the Pumas in Newcastle tomorrow, buying much-needed breathing time and space for a new group at the end of a challenging, protracted year for everyone.
The worst case scenario is, well, not worth considering for Foster and the team.
Finishing this year with a 50 per cent win record (three victories, two losses, one draw) is far from ideal – yet irrefutably preferable to the depressing opening prospect.
Should the All Blacks rectify their first loss to the Pumas two weeks ago, depending on the margin of victory that may be enough to claim the Tri Nations trophy to complement the already-locked-away Bledisloe Cup which was secured for an 18th straight year.
Victory against the Pumas would not right every misstep. It would, however, vastly change the complexion of summer contemplation, allowing next year to start without metaphorical pitchforks and cleavers at the door.
Foster's challenge – not merely this week but from here on out – is to meet lofty expectation that sustained success breeds.
Since 2004, under Sir Graham Henry then Steve Hansen, the All Blacks lost 25 times in those 16 years.
From 2012 to 2019 Hansen's All Blacks, with Foster as assistant coach, dropped 10 of 108 tests.
That's a staggering record, one Foster's team are now essentially expected to uphold.
The nature of the unforgiving New Zealand rugby beast is the public demand that excellence every week.
As Wayne Smith, the former All Blacks coach, pointed out in a message to the Herald recently, significant losses have correlated with drops in the dollar value and support for governments.
Restoring faith that this team is capable of meeting those expectations is, therefore, paramount.
New Zealand has long adopted no blurred lines, no excuses, when it comes to the All Blacks. And in the age of social media, no second thought is given to firing direct criticism at players and coaches through the plethora of platforms.
More often than not, that angst comes from a place of passion.
Passion does not excuse hateful messages or trolls who knowing and repeatedly overstep the line, but the day New Zealand stops caring deeply about an All Blacks defeat, and demanding excellence established throughout the team's proud history, is the day the sport should be seriously worried about its future.
The reaction to successive defeats – for the first time in nine years – to the Wallabies and Pumas has undoubtedly been fuelled by the undercurrent of dissatisfaction at the process to appoint Foster over successful Crusaders mentor Scott Robertson.
No one knows for sure how Robertson would go as All Blacks coach but there is a concerted contingent who already seems sure Foster is not up to the task.
Many have, clearly, been waiting for the chance to reignite their fury over the continuation of the All Blacks promotion from within.
Should the All Blacks survive this week's test of character, Foster is sure to face many more days of reckoning, particularly in the eyes of his detractors.
For now, though, the Pumas are all that matter.
Two weeks on from their last despondent performance, Foster must inspire the All Blacks to a response that suggests there is reason to believe next year will bring much more consistency and cohesion than 2020 has delivered.
Faith must be restored.