One game down, just three more proper ones (hopefully) to go.
A third string All Black side would deal to Namibia, Canada and Italy in Pool B. Steve Hansen's selections for the playoff games – initially against Scotland presumably - are already in focus.
To cut to the chase, when Brodie Retallick is fit I'd shift Ardie Savea back to the bench for the toughest sudden death games.
One reason for this view is the inept collective effort from the All Black front rowers against South Africa.
The props were flops, the hookers not much better compared to a Malcolm Marx onslaught. Dane Coles' clever contribution to the Scott Barrett try was a rare highlight.
Savea is the flavour of the moment at the world tournament. But the much bigger lock/loosie Barrett was so good against the Springboks that he is now an essential item at No 6 against the power of England, Ireland or South Africa.
The Springboks' fawning attitude towards the All Blacks after the 10-point Yokohama defeat is a con job. Don't be fooled, because the heavyweight packs will be licking their lips at the thought of taking the All Black forwards on.
The front row was so bad in Yokohama it suggested leaving Owen Franks behind was a mistake. Even illness-hit Karl Tu'inukuafe would have been a better bet.
Front row highlights? Replacement loosehead Ofa Tuungafasi hurtled into a few well executed tackles after joining the fray with Angus Ta'avao in the 50th minute. But that was about it.
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Nepo Laulala was a seagull, Joe Moody defended busily but not in a confrontational way, and Ta'avao was hardly sighted.
They, and just about everyone else on the field, were overshadowed by the magnificent Steven Kitshoff (my man of the match ahead of the Barrett brothers).
The 'Bok loosehead still had enough energy to smash over a fresh Sonny Bill Williams in the 51st minute - one of nine powerful charges he made – and, incredibly for this day and age, lasted until the 67th minute. His All Black opponents were embarrassed.
Hansen has spent the year demanding more from his props… and got less. They made a total of two forgettable runs – one each to Laulala and Tuungafasi – compared to 11 from the 'Boks.
A comparison with other top sides from the opening World Cup clashes makes extraordinary reading.
The muscular Irish props made a total of 17 runs, followed by Australia (16), France (14), Scotland (12), then Wales and England (6 each).
Even Tonga's 150kg man mountain Ben Tameifuna ran the ball up four times against England despite appearing to be out of breath.
The All Black props were so passive it was hard to fathom given the enormity of the occasion. Just imagine what the All Blacks would achieve if they did have more front foot ball.
Most alarmingly, the All Black scrum finished in a mess, with Patrick Tuipulotu packing down in place of Barrett at lock and the new front row on.
Ta'avao was twice buried by replacement loosehead Tendai Mtawarira. The game ended with Tuungafasi skidding backwards on his face after Frans Malherbe had reappeared for the injured Trevor Nyakane.
The All Blacks need to accept Barrett's presence is vital to compensate for a power deficiency.
For all of his wild man brilliance which included a couple of big steals on defence, blindside flanker Savea didn't confront the 'Bok forwards the way Scott Barrett did in the tradition of the incomparable Jerome Kaino.
Savea operates in spurts, ones that should be saved for an attempted second half demolition job. The lightweight fireball also needs to be saved from burnout.
If the All Blacks go with their best forwards to face the biggest teams, starting Savea will leave Tuipulotu and Barrett on the bench, not an ideal positional or impact mix.
No 8 Kieran Read is such an amazing lineout performer that the All Blacks don't need Barrett's added height when Retallick returns. But he is an athletic, clever and wholehearted footballer. They need his confrontational attitude, driving tackles and bulk.
Give me a break
It's a twisted world when...
1) Israel Folau is hounded over his ridiculous homophobic views, yet there is no outcry about the All Blacks selecting Sevu Reece who escaped any real punishment for bashing his partner.
2) Spare part Blake Ayshford gets a prize at the Warriors awards night while magnificent Ken Maumalo doesn't get a mention.
What the heck is team man of the year anyway? With all due respect to the likeable Ayshford - who seemed to get paid for doing very little in 2019 - we the public don't care how blokes perform outside the white lines.
My team man of the year would have been player of the year Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, Maumalo or Peta Hiku, for maintaining terrific standards in that diabolical mess.
They are the ones who deserved a book voucher (kids, ask your parents about those).
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