The rest of the world seems more surprised than gleeful that the All Blacks have been exposed as being as human and as flawed as everyone else.

It appears to be something of a revelation that they are beatable and prone to making poor decisions under pressure.

And for some observers, seeing the All Blacks battle their demons meant the test landscape changed significantly overnight.

Test rugby suddenly became interesting. All that relentless winning by the All Blacks was deemed boring – bad for the game and one shock defeat and the Rugby Championship is suddenly a competition on a knife edge and worth watching.


There's nothing more misguided, however, than riding the highs and lows of each result as it tends to obscure the true picture which is typically a lot less hyperbolic and dramatic.

It's never wise to see too much in one win or one loss as all sporting contests are built on a foundation of unpredictability.

The Rugby Championship has always been alive and on a knife edge. There was never any pre-ordained plot that the All Blacks would turn up and win it and rather than see the Springboks' victory in Wellington as the extraordinary moment when rugby tilted on its axis, perhaps it should be the catalyst for realising how well the All Blacks played in the first three tests of the competition.

Perhaps it should be the moment for everyone to see that each test victory is to be treasured as however easy it may have looked for the All Blacks against Australia and Argentina, it wasn't.

South Africa were able to do what neither the Wallabies nor Pumas could, and keep the All Blacks under pressure for 80 minutes.

That pressure came through the excellence of their defence. The solidity and aggression of their tackling was obvious.

That pressure came through the way the Boks moved the ball in the counter attack – the way they turned a loose kick into seven points.

It came in the way they stormed back each time the All Blacks scored and it came in the way they played with such an overt desperation that inevitably began to carry a sense of intimidation.

The Boks exposed the All Blacks as vulnerable, but not in any worrying or lasting way.

South Africa's victory hasn't revealed something new about the All Blacks or an endemic crack in their psychological make up.

The vulnerability is there every time the All Blacks play and when the opposition perform as well as the Springboks did, they expose that frailty.

What the Boks have done is remind everyone that test matches swing on the smallest things and show that the gap in ability between the world's best team and seventh team is nowhere near as large as most imagine.

None of this is new or in any way surprising to the All Blacks themselves whose challenge for much of the last few years has been to keep each of their many victories in perspective.

The usual Monday morning post-test routine is to pick apart the performance and see the bad as clearly as the good.

That process doesn't change in defeat and just as they have to battle to not believe their own superiority when they win, now they must retain that approach to be sure they are not suddenly inferior just because they have lost.

The twin imposters of victory and defeat must be treated the same, something which coach Steve Hansen is already preaching.

"Sport is a great showcase for people's character – when you win and you're meant to lose and when you lose when you're meant to win … you see a range of emotions," he said.

"And when you're used to winning all the time like we are I think it's really important to show the same range of emotions as when you win.

"You have to stand up and be counted. Thankfully I think our guys have done that. I don't think they have been poor losers. They accept the fact they got beaten on a night by a team that played better than we did."

Those teams who lie in wait for the All Blacks – England, Ireland, Australia, Argentina, Japan, Italy and the Boks again – won't read much into the Wellington result either.

As much as the All Blacks understand the vagaries of test football, so do their opponents.

They all know that the All Blacks carry a level of vulnerability, but knowing that provides no real base on which to exploit it.