It was a mistake-ridden performance against the Springboks, and Herschel Jantjies' late converted try sucked the energy from the majority of those at Westpac Stadium on Saturday. But the All Blacks won't be deterred from following a new attacking strategy they feel will be crucial at the World Cup.
As coach Steve Hansen said the following day, they can see light at the end of the tunnel. While Brodie Retallick's dislocated shoulder compounded the gloom following the 16-all draw against the Springboks, there are reasons to be cheerful, not least because the Richie Mo'unga-Beauden Barrett combination appears to be very much the way forward.
Barrett's pace in the wide channels set him apart as the All Blacks' most dangerous back. Gradually he and Mo'unga, who found his rhythm nicely in the second half, stretched the Springboks' defence, albeit without breaking it and making the game safe.
There will be a concern among some that the All Blacks couldn't score a point against the Pumas in the second half of their narrow win in Buenos Aires and could manage only a converted try in the first half in Wellington, but such is the revolution in terms of their attacking strategy that the benefits may not be seen for some time, although they will hope to be more accurate against Australia in Perth a week on Saturday.
Should South Africa beat the Pumas in Argentina, the All Blacks will need a big victory over the Wallabies to have any chance of winning the Rugby Championship, although the retention of the Bledisloe Cup is a bigger priority.
"Yes, it's pretty drastic but well within the capabilities of our team," said halfback Aaron Smith of the new attacking methods. He added that he thoroughly enjoyed playing alongside two "wizards" in Mo'unga and Barrett as a replacement in the final quarter.
"If we get it right it's going to be pretty awesome. That's an exciting proposition. We've had two weeks together, or three and a bit. The first couple of weeks we were trying to learn the moves and each week we've picked a different team. Combinations haven't been built.
"We still think we can execute better than we did. We can see opportunities but credit to South Africa and Argentina, they were able to stop us."
The line speed the All Blacks have faced against the Pumas and Springboks recently will be representative of that at the World Cup. It's the new way, and the All Blacks feel they won't have any show of defending their title without trying something different.
"We're trying to do something that's new and they're not quite clear on how to go about it… it's not ingrained enough," Hansen said.
"Our lost possessions were quite high and they were the week before too. But that's a byproduct of being rusty and learning new stuff. We have to accept that."
Hansen was unequivocal when asked about the importance of both combating line speed from an attacking point of view and his side refining it themselves. "Definitely," he said. "You saw it last night; both sides were fanatical with it. I think Scotty [McLeod] has done a great job in the off season with his planning. He's started to implement it and we're not the finished product there either but we've started to see some very good defence in the last couple of weeks."
Assistant coach Ian Foster mostly liked what he saw from his pair of playmakers, and they're likely to get the nod to start in Perth.
"There were some nice signs there," he said. "I think in the first 40 it looked like Argentina all over again - players weren't instinctively getting into the shape that we wanted them, or making the right decisions, but after a while I thought there were nice patches in the third and fourth quarter when Richie and Beaudy got a few things organised. It's a work in progress."
Mo'unga said: "What we came to find is that it's not something that's going to happen overnight. In the first half we were put under pressure and couldn't really get into our structure or play a few phases, but in the second half there were glimpses of what we were trying to create."