Buenos Aires scare survived and collective rust presumably cleared from the All Black machine, now the big question is how much does Steve Hansen change for the next Rugby Championship test against the Springboks in Wellington, a test they famously lost last year.
Unfamiliar combinations and a relative lack of experience were two major issues in the 20-16 victory over the Pumas, especially in the second half when the All Blacks failed to score a point, and Hansen may elect to roll the dice again in terms of personnel on Saturday while dramatically improving the latter.
Most of his big Crusaders players, who didn't make the trip to Argentina, are likely to play because even though this test ranks lower in terms of importance than the two Bledisloe Cup fixtures next month against the Wallabies, and way behind the World Cup, they will need game time ahead of the test in Perth on August 10 following the collection of their third successive Super Rugby championship.
That means Joe Moody, Codie Taylor, Owen Franks, Sam Whitelock, Kieran Read, Matt Todd, Jack Goodhue and George Bridge will probably get a run at Westpac Stadium, but there will be intrigue about whether they start and which position some of them play; so much so that this will be one of the most difficult teams to pick all year for their supporters and indeed South Africa coach Rassie Erasmus.
Erasmus was triumphant in September last year following his side's 36-34 victory at the Cake Tin which came days after a remarkably downbeat press conference during which he said he half expected to be sacked should his side lose (despite being in the first year of a six-year contract).
It was a masterclass in terms of setting low expectations for everyone other than his own players but Hansen could spring a few surprises of his own this week.
It's no secret that one of the major questions he faces ahead of the World Cup is who to select at blindside flanker following the question marks over Liam Squire's availability (and at this stage Squire appears a long shot to make it to Japan).
Highlanders loose forward Shannon Frizell will come into consideration after missing the trip to Argentina due to a cut knee and Hansen will probably want to see him in action after selecting Vaea Fifita in the No6 jersey at Jose Amalfitani Stadium.
AdvertisementAdvertise with NZME.
Fifita played 56 minutes against the Pumas before giving way to Luke Jacobson and while he didn't appear to do much wrong there remains a feeling that if Fifita doesn't have the ball in his hands then he's not contributing as much as he might.
The jury is still out on Frizell, too, particularly as he couldn't force his way into the Highlanders' starting line-up this year. In fact he played only 45 minutes a game on average.
All of which is why, in the interests of truly seeing some new combinations in a big test but without the pressure of a World Cup knockout game, Hansen might want to start Read, Ardie Savea and Sam Cane as the loose trio, and I'd go as far as starting Read at blindside flanker and Savea at No8.
Savea was formerly a superb impact player at openside flanker but is now one who can play any of the three loose forward positions. Such is his talent and consistency, the 25-year-old is rapidly becoming a player who Hansen can't afford to be without at the start of big tests, especially when quick ball and momentum around the fringes is so important in this age of suffocating defences.
A starting loose trio of Savea, Cane and Read would be incredibly dynamic. Worried about the bench lacking a bit of loose forward impact power? Matt Todd could provide that.
Is Hansen likely to go for that mix on Saturday? It's probably unlikely, but as the All Blacks seek to take their game to a new level on what should be hard grounds in Japan, it's a compelling combination and a worthy one.