New Zealand's reign at the top of world rugby is well and truly over, yet by the end of the World Cup it was looking more impressive than ever.
The overwhelming trend on the international rugby stage is this: there isn't a trend of success. Teams who are up one week are completely down the next.
It is so stark that playing badly can almost be seen as a good thing, if you get the timing right. New World Cup champions South Africa's plodding semifinal effort against Wales did them no harm.
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• Rape and murder of teenager sparks protests across South Africa
After Ireland beat the All Blacks in Dublin last year, All Black coach Steve Hansen suggested the Irish faced new challenges as top dog.
Dublin proved to be a springboard for the Irish, to be sure, a little leap upwards followed by a long tumble downwards.
Even then, Ireland typified the world rugby non-trend, an impressive World Cup opening against Scotland quickly forgotten as they crashed against Japan.
This year, the All Blacks had a disaster in Perth, and promptly fired back at Australia at Eden Park. They obliterated Ireland in Japan, and were then demolished by England.
Ireland and Wales have flirted with the number one ranking this year, but didn't play like that in the tournament.
Nothing will ever compare to England's triumph and travail though.
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They managed to produce their most impressive win and disastrous loss in the space of a week. In between, you would have thought the Webb Ellis Cup was already theirs, such was the universal back slapping.
After a stunning win over New Zealand, their coach Eddie Jones was being treated like a messiah. His disgraceful press conference performance - where he got away with fabricating a spying claim against the All Blacks – was viewed as a masterclass in motivation via distraction.
A week later, his team looked as though they had been prepared by Crunchy the Clown.
Jones' assistant John Mitchell had even joined the unwise trend before the final, comparing the boom English flankers Sam Underhill and Tom Curry favourably to Richie McCaw and David Pocock.
It was hard to fathom. Having successfully played the underdog card against the All Blacks, English rugby was prematurely celebrating.
The English should have listened instead to the master motivator Hansen, who has claimed that the unceasing scrutiny and criticism of All Black teams is a vital ingredient in the success.
The All Blacks stayed on top, in style and substance, for a decade. England couldn't even stay there for a week.
So where did Super-coach Eddie go?
He went where almost all international rugby coaches go these days – on a roller coaster.
There is so much analysis, precise preparation and defensive expertise that a poor start, a few rough decisions and the odd mistake can turn hopes and dreams into disasters. (England were terrible in the World Cup final, but they didn't get the rub of the green from the match officials).
The playing schedules are also so exhausting that it is a tough job getting enough minds and bodies willing on the same day.
Since the last World Cup, South Africa have lost 20 test matches. TWENTY. They've also drawn three of those 50 matches. The new world champs have barely a 50 per cent win record in the last four years.
They've even been beaten by Six Nations disasters Italy. The losses also include a 57 – 0 drubbing at Albany only two years ago. Three weeks later, they lost by just a point.
Sports psychology in rugby is either dead and buried or very much alive.
We will now get to see how long South Africa can command, under their inspiring commander.
For many World Cup final neutrals, captain Siya Kolisi's post-match speech in Tokyo could be the tournament highlight. It will certainly live in my mind.
He spoke with so much clarity and humility, about the problems his country faces, and his hopes around what the Springboks' victory might mean in addressing those issues. In his quiet way, he implored South Africans to work together, as his team had.
Kolisi knows what he is talking about. His mixed race marriage has led to disgusting social media reactions in a complex society with a tragic history.
His white team mate Eben Etzebeth even faces accusations of using a racial slur in a pub, a hard to fathom situation given that Etzebeth and Kolisi are extremely close.
"Can I say I love another man? Because I really love the guy," Etzebeth has said of South Africa's first black rugby captain.
Kolisi's words and presence in Tokyo were extraordinary. He even mentioned the homeless. Anyone who has visited certain parts of South Africa will know why.
After winning the World Cup, and coming up with the speech to end all sporting speeches, he retained the clarity of thought to say arigatō gozaimasu for the tournament hosts.
Kolisi has an aura.
Yet the Springboks got more from their country than they will be able to give back, noble intentions notwithstanding.
Coach Rassie Erasmus told his team it was time to play for the South Africa's people, rather than themselves, before the final. It was the right card to play that week. Motivation sorted.
But the real world always beckons.
Speeches like Kolisi's are moving, but in the face of huge problems they tend to move very little.