The All Blacks overcame what was expected to be their toughest ever challenge in the group stages, beating South Africa 23-13 during the opening weekend of the World Cup. It continues the team's truly bonkers record of having never lost in the group stages.
The knockouts... well, that's a different story.
This week we rank the All Blacks six RWC losses in order of psychological scarring upon the nation's oft-fragile sporting consciousness.
6. 1991 - Australia 16 All Blacks 6, Lansdowne Rd, Dublin
The first loss at a World Cup hurt, of course it did, but it was manageable. There are several reasons for this, principal among them the fact New Zealanders were blissfully unaware this was to become a recurring theme of RWC campaigns.
There were other factors at play too, though distance makes it harder to judge whether we felt this at the time or whether it has become a retrospective re-fashioning of the campaign. With that caveat in mind, this All Black side was widely regarded to be hurtling down a steep decline, which was one of the reasons John Hart was brought in to co-coach the side despite having little or no common ground with incumbent Alex Wyllie.
This was a particularly unlikeable All Black side. The British press labeled them as arrogant (nothing new in this charge to be fair) and on this occasion they were probably right. Locals and neutrals overwhelmingly wanted to Australia to win this match, and they got what they wanted in a manner as comfortable as the score suggests.
5. 1999 (bronze) - South Africa 22 All Blacks 18, Millennium Stadium, Cardiff
As you'll read later, the real damage had already been done at this tournament, though losing to an ordinary Bok team in the "consolation" final just reinforced to many New Zealanders that this was a team that was dreadful when put under any pressure.
It also, unfairly perhaps, painted Taine Randell as a poor captain after he admitted what everybody knew: nobody wants to play a third-place playoff. He was mercilessly razzed for this because of all that macho "if you can't get yourself up for a test against the Boks…" nonsense.
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In hindsight, he'd concede his honesty was probably best left unsaid and this campaign only added to the impression that Randell wasn't really cut out for the job.
The loss was the rugby equivalent of being kicked out a great rooftop bar because you're not wearing a collared shirt and then having someone fart in the elevator on the way down.
4. 1995 - South Africa 15 All Blacks 12 (AET) Ellis Park, Johannesburg
The initial reaction to this loss was relatively mature by New Zealand standards. It is only a lingering sense of cruel misfortune (injustice) that keeps any flame burning.
Playing an expansive style that focused on the power running of Jonah Lomu and the speed and ball-handling of forwards like Josh Kronfeld and Zinzan Brooke, the All Blacks were the class of the tournament until they ran into the fiercely committed defensive wall of South Africa.
A tryless match was decided by an extra time drop goal and most of us accepted that it was just one of those days. The Springboks were swept up in a wave of Nelson Mandela-inspired rainbow nationalism. It was possible to feel sad for the All Blacks yet appreciative of the transformative effect Mandela's intervention and the Boks' victory had on a fractured nation.
It would have ended there and ended up at no 6 on this list if it didn't subsequently emerge that all was not well in the All Black camp in a literal sense. Very unwell.
The story turned sharply, with a simple yet devastating case of food poisoning morphing into a conspiracy to nobble the All Blacks. South African rugby supremo Louis Luyt's weird post-tournament behaviour (gold watches for a referee, anyone?) only added fuel to the fire.
When other tournaments ended badly, this served as a reminder that perhaps when it came to the All Blacks and World Cups, it just wasn't meant to be.
3. 2003 -Australia 22 All Blacks 10, Stadium Australia, Sydney
"Four more years, boys."
You have to grudgingly admit, George Gregan's 'bantz' was stunning. The timing was pitch perfect and rarely before has such a poignant message been conveyed in four monosyllabic words. It makes Hillary's "Well, George, we knocked the bastard off," seem verbose by comparison.
The semifinal loss combined elements of 1991'2 loss at the same stage, but it was altogether more enigmatic and the scarring lasted longer.
The similarity with 1991 was that not many people liked them. They were led by coaches John Mitchell and Robbie Deans who never hid their disdain for the media. This siege mentality permeated everything they did.
Weird things happened, like a staffer being sent home for unexplained reasons, and the hugely respected Tana Umaga not being picked for the semifinal even though he declared himself fit. Leon
MacDonald played centre and although it wasn't his fault that Carlos Spencer's telegraphed pass to him was intercepted by his opposite Stirling Mortlock, the move could not be called a masterstroke.
Such was the lack of affection for the Mitchell regime, his own bosses had effectively moved on from him before England had time to etch their names into the Webb Ellis Cup a week later.
2. 2007 - France 20 All Blacks 18, Millennium Stadium, Cardiff
There's all sorts of scars left by this, each the symbol of a deep cut to the nation's rugby psyche.
Cut 1: That made it five tournaments on the trot without reward.
Cut 2: It was the earliest exit.
Cut 3: We were led to believe we had the smartest guys in the room leading the campaign.
Cut 4: The refereeing was egregious.
Cut 5: A good team (albeit a dubiously selected one), played so poorly.
Oh man did they play poorly. Yeah, the reason France ended up with two more points than the All Blacks can be attributed in large part to a refereeing meltdown for the ages, but in their heart of hearts Graham Henry, Richie McCaw and co know they should have never been close enough for it to matter.
It unleashed a tsunami of insecurities. Henry had been given everything he wanted, to the point where he was allowed to eviscerate that year's Super Rugby tournament to keep his players fresh. He got his pre-tournament holiday in Corsica.
When his master plan faltered most assumed he'd go the way of Hart and Mitchell and Wyllie. For once, New Zealand rugby stayed the course.
Those scars were given time to heal.
1. 1999 (semi) - France 43 All Blacks 31, Twickenham, London
France unleashed rugby from heaven for 20 minutes and the public unleashed hell on the All Blacks for their inability to respond.
It was ugly. Ugly.
Coach John Hart had bought a slicker, more corporate edge to the All Blacks that was in keeping with the move to professionalism. Unfortunately, when things on the field went south all the stuff off the field got blamed, including the crass decision to adorn an Air New Zealand plane with a massive mural of the All Black front row.
They were panned for taking a break during the tournament to the south of France, the quiet shattered by paparazzi all trying to get a snap of Jonah Lomu and his new squeeze Teina Stace.
Most of all they were panned for claiming the French played dirty and grabbed their nuts and stuff without doing anything about it. Apparently they were told not to retaliate.
The rugby public lost their minds. Hart's horse was targeted.
It was peak psychological scarring, peak immaturity.