It's only the All Blacks players and coaches who understand that in their world pressure operates on a continuum that is oblivious to results.

When they win, the expectation is high the next time they play. When they lose, the expectation is high the next time they play.

There are no soft or easy mental periods for the All Blacks; no peaks or troughs based on whether they are trending well or badly.

This is how life must be in their quest for continuous improvement and why head coach Steve Hansen never tires of explaining that victory is every bit as powerful and useful a tool from which to learn as defeat.


It's because there is no release valve on the pressure gauge that so many players have not been able to survive in the All Blacks.

It's not for everyone. Even good players have struggled to cope with the unforgiving demands.

But if there is an upside to it all, it is the reassurance that however much the handle is cranked externally in the wake of the All Blacks' loss to the Springboks, it will have no impact inside the camp.

Outcome is a by-product of performance and it is only the latter that the All Blacks can control and only the latter by which they judge themselves.

They are chasing the perfect performance not the perfect result and hence what will have had the players squirming on route to Buenos Aries was not their failure to win against South Africa, but their failure to play well.

Their collective sense of discomfort, however, neither heightens nor diminishes their motivation in respect to previous Rugby Championship encounters in Argentina and South Africa and nor have the All Blacks suddenly developed a new found respect for the Pumas and Springboks that previously wasn't there.

The difficulty of winning in Argentina and South Africa has always been fully appreciated by the All Blacks even if the public have been blasé and presumptuous about it.

And if anything, the pressure in the next two weeks sits more heavily with Argentina and South Africa than it does the All Blacks.

South Africa's Willie le Roux celebrates at the final whistle after beating the All Blacks. Photo / Photosport
South Africa's Willie le Roux celebrates at the final whistle after beating the All Blacks. Photo / Photosport

The Pumas, if they are a side genuinely on the rise, will know they can only prove that by following an away win against the Wallabies with a home win against the All Blacks.

That expectation brings a newfound pressure as it will when the Boks meet the All Blacks a week later in Pretoria.

The Springboks played with a desperation in Wellington that will be difficult to replicate.

They were emotionally driven in the final quarter and while they did heroically well to win, they will be confronted by the reality that beating the All Blacks a second time in the space of a few weeks is infinitely harder than beating them the first time.

Ireland learned that the hard way in 2016 when they were brilliant in Chicago to beat the All Blacks for the first time in 111 years.

The Irish, on account of the premature death of their former No 8 Anthony Foley, were as emotionally charged that day as they were strategically clever and two weeks later when the teams met in Dublin, they couldn't match the intensity they had brought in the USA.

What won't help the Boks' cause either is the loss, through injury and European club duty of four of the players who were involved in the capital and in the context of what lies ahead for the All Blacks, their moment of reckoning will come in November when they have to play England and Ireland in consecutive weeks.

The tests in Argentina and South Africa will be tough but the back-to-back games at Twickenham and Aviva Stadium will be tougher for the simple reason England are a better team than the Pumas and Ireland are a better side than the Springboks.

Those games will demand that the All Blacks prove they can perform outstandingly one test and then lift their level again seven days later.

It's those two games that will provide the best evidence of whether this All Blacks side is genuinely capable of living up to their own expectations and coping with their self-imposed desire to be better every time they play.

England followed by Ireland will be treated as the equivalent of playing a World Cup semi-final and final - and as the All Blacks know, there is no margin of error in knock-out rugby.

Whatever the English drain from the All Blacks at Twickenham, the visitors will have to find a way to recuperate and rejuvenate to reproduce the same urgency and hunger seven days later.