With the All Blacks squad cut from 39 to 34 for the Bledisloe Cup tests, and three more players to be culled for the World Cup squad, there is now more pressure than ever on Sonny Bill Williams to prove he deserves to be one of the four midfielders heading to Japan.
The big second-five did well to get through just under 60 minutes against a swarming Springbok defence in Wellington given his lack of recent game time and now the spotlight will be on what he can do for Counties-Manukau over the next fortnight.
He will be required to show a little more than mere durability because midfield rival Ngani Laumape is likely to get a big opportunity to impress in the first test against the Wallabies in Perth a week on Saturday, with Williams coming back into the frame for the second test a week later at Eden Park.
It's clear the make-up of the midfield remains the most difficult World Cup decision for the selectors and it appears almost certain that it will be a contest between Williams and Laumape for that fourth spot to Japan.
Jack Goodhue and Anton Lienert-Brown are almost certain to be named and Ryan Crotty probably would have heard his name read out before for the warm-up test against Tonga in Hamilton on September 7, for which he will be available. The final squad will be announced late next month.
Crotty, who is recovering from a broken thumb, got positive news from a scan this week, as did his Crusaders teammate Scott Barrett, who is recovering from a broken bone in his hand and could be available to play in Perth – a massive boost for coach Steve Hansen following Brodie Retallick's dislocated shoulder.
For 33-year-old Williams, who will play a pre-season game for Counties-Manukau in Katikati on Saturday and the round one match against Taranaki a week later, the pressure from defenders will be less than what he encountered last weekend, but the attention from the All Black selectors won't be.
"We've got a lot of respect for Sonny's playing ability, obviously," Hansen said. "He's played 52 tests for the All Blacks, so we know he can play at this level. The unfortunate thing is he hasn't played much.
"We wanted to see him on Saturday being able to cope with the rigors of test football, which he did, so that's a big tick. But to judge him at the highest level when he's had no football is not fair.
"What we've asked him to do is play a couple of games for Counties which will give him three games in three weeks and then look to see what we're going to do in Auckland. If he was to play there that would be four games in four weeks.
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"Then everybody gets judged fairly and whatever combination of the four we come up with, everybody has had an opportunity to say 'well, I've had a fair go' and every one of them deserves that including Sonny."
Hansen added of his selection dilemmas: "It's not so much a worry, more a headache of having too many good players. Obviously midfield is one of those. We've got four, five - six if you include Braydon Ennor who can play in the midfield – they're all exceptionally good players."
The five casualties so far are prop Karl Tu'inukuafe, hooker Asafo Aumua, loose forwards Shannon Frizell and Dalton Papalii, and first-five Josh Ioane, although the latter will travel with the All Blacks to Perth on Saturday to further his development.
Tu'inukuafe had the latter part of his Super Rugby season wrecked by a virus and has had few opportunities since but doesn't provide the mobility sought by the coaches. Fellow front-rowers Angus Ta'avao and Atu Moli are the big winners in this department.
And the same could be said for Patrick Tuipulotu, who appeared in danger of reversing out of the squad but probably earned a reprieve following Retallick's injury.
Before that the selectors probably would have taken only three locks to Japan, with Jackson Hemopo and Vaea Fifita capable of covering lock if required, and of those two Hemopo presented the strongest case.
Now, although it's hoped Retallick will be available for the All Blacks' first World Cup game against the Boks on September 21, it's not so clear cut.
All Blacks squad for Bledisloe Cup
Hookers: Dane Coles, Liam Coltman and Codie Taylor.
Props: Owen Franks, Nepo Laulala, Joe Moody, Atu Moli, Angus Ta'avao and Ofa Tuungafasi.
Locks: Scott Barrett, Jackson Hemopo, Patrick Tuipulotu and Samuel Whitelock.
Loose forwards: Sam Cane, Vaea Fifita, Luke Jacobson, Kieran Read, Ardie Savea and Matt Todd.
Halfbacks: TJ Perenara, Aaron Smith and Brad Weber.
First five-eighths: Beauden Barrett and Richie Mo'unga.
Midfielders: Jack Goodhue, Ngani Laumape, Anton Lienert-Brown and Sonny Bill Williams.
Utility backs: Braydon Ennor and Jordie Barrett.
Outside backs: George Bridge, Rieko Ioane, Sevu Reece and Ben Smith.