Four talking points from a test that was as ugly as any of the 74 internationals I've watched between the All Blacks and the Springboks since 1965.
The tactics may be dull, but at least they're dumb
Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber, after his team lost to the All Blacks 19-17 (let me repeat that, after his team lost) said he thought "the game plan worked."
His team lost (did I mention that?), just as they did twice to the Wallabies, and this numbskull still thinks the tactics worked?
Actually using the word tactics is not exactly right. Tactic would be a fairer description. You kick the ball and you chase it. And do it again, world without end, in the ultimate rugby version of Groundhog Day.
To be fair Nienaber's halfback, Faf de Klerk, does kick a great high ball. Jordie Barrett would know, and he said they come out the sky like cricket "top spinners and cutters." And for large sections of the test Barrett was basically the only All Black who looked confident catching de Klerk's bombs.
But when your mind is so closed to attack that, as de Klerk did, you loft a kick when you get the ball on your opponent's 22? That's as ridiculous as Evander Holyfield trying to make a boxing comeback at 58.
Hindsight makes geniuses of us all
In George Bridge's career he's been, if you'd excuse the cliché, a safe pair of hands. Fearless, accurate, and stronger than his lean frame would suggest, he usually offers such certainty that in a preview of the Townville test I was comparing him to the great Ben Smith, as a giant pillar in the All Black back three.
The horror when he was turned inside out under a high ball, that took a wicked bounce into the welcoming arms of Springbok wing Sbu Nkosi for a fifth minute try was a dreadful warning that, with the exception of Jordie Barrett, many of the All Blacks would be inaccurate when the inevitable barrage of up-and-unders poured down.
Add in the struggle, in the face of terrific Springbok defence, to get All Black backline moves to advance past the midfield, and the nail-biting finish could have been avoided by handing the ball more often to Jordie Barrett to kick for goal, rather than to brother Beauden to kick for an attacking lineout.
Jordie is in stunning, Handre Pollard-like goal kicking touch. His last-gasp penalty to save the game was of a level that won Quade Cooper Australian citizenship. Barrett's 78th minute goal would have been hard enough if the All Blacks had been enjoying a 10-point winning buffer. It was not only nearly 50 metres from the goalposts, but on a wide angle. Given the circumstances, with a test about to be lost by a point, it was pure gold.
It's not the players I don't like, it's the style
If I have nothing but harsh words for the way the Boks approached the Townsville test, let me now praise the grit of their players.
Men like their captain, Siya Kolisi, flanker Kwagga Smith (whose battered looks are testament to a man who has given up a handsome facial profile for his country), and lock Eben Eztebeth are prime examples of the flinty commitment that can make them, as the All Blacks found, hugely difficult to play freely against.
While English referee Luke Pearce appeared, for no clear reason, to take an instant dislike to All Black loosehead prop Joe Moody, in fairness the string of scrum penalties against New Zealand was largely dictated by the fact the Bok pack was not only massive, but also as decisive as a closed fist.
In the lineouts, where the All Blacks had looked so efficient against the Wallabies and the Pumas, the Springboks showed the daring they didn't with the ball in hand. They contested, won ball off All Black throws, and eventually basically forced New Zealand to throw to the front, where Ethan Blackadder did a magnificent job.
The problems came with the severe limitation of options when a team can't peel and roll off possession won at the back of a lineout. By the time the ball was reaching David Havili the Springbok backline was up so fast there was virtually a green and black mosaic outside the All Black second-five.
Ian Foster's right, better to win ugly than to lose
A characteristic of every All Black team, and a prime reason they have the best win ratio in the history of the game, is that they're never fully satisfied with their performance, even after a big win.
This week viewers of a nervous disposition wouldn't want to be in the room when their video analysis of the Townsville test is in full stride.
But as realistically harsh as some of the judgements do need to be about All Black inaccuracy, from sloppy passing to fielding kicks, it'll be fascinating to see how they react next weekend when they play South Africa on the Gold Coast.
There must have been a sense of the unknown about the test in Townsville for the All Blacks. Only six of the starting team on Saturday night had started in the previous test against South Africa, two years ago in Yokohama at the World Cup.
Now they've all been up close and personal with the World Cup winners they know exactly what they'll face next Saturday. If the All Blacks had lost in Townsville stress levels for the second test would have been off the scale.
But instead the Rugby Championship is won, and if things click for the All Blacks as they did for the Wallabies the second time they played South Africa, who knows, we may see a victory won with panache and tries, rather than a dour arm wrestle won on kicks.