Herald rugby experts Patrick McKendry, Wynne Gray and Chris Rattue answer three key questions following the All Blacks Rugby Championship win over South Africa this morning.
Who were the biggest winners and losers for All Blacks?
Patrick McKendry: On the plus side, Lima Sopoaga, Charles Piutau and Brodie Retallick. Dane Coles and Ben Smith were superb in their first test of the year. Codie Taylor looked good off the bench, as did Malakai Fekitoa. James Broadhurst had a difficult debut - he was physically knocked around and ran too upright - and was replaced at halftime.
Wynne Gray: You couldn't go past Charles Piutau who's been under the pump because of other back four competition and his departure after the World Cup and repeatedly shown what a gifted player he is. He showed all those skills once more at Ellis Park while there will be continued questions about whether Liam Messam and Ben Franks best fit the mix.
Chris Rattue: To pick out one winner, Charles Piutau has made big strides considering he flirted with exile by annoying the rugby overlords through his "premature" move overseas. I don't know if I'd call Liam Messam a loser, but he has developed sloppy tendencies and an All Black No. 6 should have more physical impact. I actually think his World Cup place should be under real threat, but not sure if the selectors see it like that.
How good was Lima Sopoaga?
Patrick McKendry: Very good. Early on there was a dinky little kick in his own 22m which was probably the wrong option but he wasn't fazed despite the occasion and the pace of the game. He was willing to try things and was brave on defence. His run for Ben Smith's try was a highlight and his conversion of Richie McCaw's try was very important.
Wynne Gray: As good as anyone can be on debut in such a crucial position, on the highveld against a Bok side intent on roughing him up. This was an assured response from Sopoaga which in turn throws the pressure back on the selectors, Beauden Barrett and Colin Slade.
Good enough, because this was a baptism of fire, but it's difficult to judge his Word Cup readiness on one performance and his goalkicking wasn't completely convincing.
What does this victory prove?
Patrick McKendry: That the All Blacks are the fittest team in world rugby, that they have superb depth on the bench, and that they have the mental and physical fortitude to hang in there when things are not going well for them. It also probably proved that McCaw is the best captain in world rugby - his decision to go for the lineout and call the move in which he scored as inspired. It also proved that the Boks will be difficult opponents at the World Cup.
Wynne Gray: That these All Blacks are usually better than the Boks because they know how to cope with relentless pressure but it doesn't prove anything about the World Cup.
Chris Rattue: That the All Blacks have the wood on South Africa, who quite clearly can't go the distance. South Africa's bench, belief and concentration is second rate going on what has happened at Brisbane and Johannesburg.