This Saturday's big rugby milestone – the 100th test between the All Blacks and Springboks and a celebration of a rivalry that has plumbed the depths off the field during the scourge of apartheid and reached intoxicating heights on it via the quality of the contests - is in danger of being a fizzer because the world champions don't appear to be worthy of the title.
They have been awful in Australia, and there will be many around the world looking on with satisfaction that the Boks' safety-first game is getting what it deserves.
Test rugby is the ultimate pragmatic affair - results are all - but when relentlessly negative teams lose like South Africa have over the last fortnight then they can't expect the rest of the rugby world to refuse to indulge in a little schadenfreude.
Last weekend's 30-17, four-tries-to-one, victory by the Wallabies at Suncorp Stadium should have been worse for the Boks. Their replacement loose forward Jasper Wiese should have been red carded with two minutes remaining for his illegal clear-out which connected with Samu Kerevi's head – Wiese was only sinbinned (a bizarre decision given referee Luke Pearce's first-half concern about Lachie Swinton's tackle on Duane Vermuelen), but has since been cited – and the Wallabies would likely have won by more had they been more disciplined.
Dave Rennie's men gave up 17 penalties to the Boks' 10. A bit more accuracy in their defusing of their opponents' high kicks – the Boks' only attacking weapon apart from their lineout drive - would also have paved the way for an even more comfortable victory.
The South Africans appear unfit, unskilled and demoralised. Their scrum is inconsistent and their connections between forwards and backs almost non-existent. They have world-class operators in the form of No8 Vermuelen, lock Eben Etzebeth and midfielder Damian de Allende but all three are playing with all the spark of a teenager in lockdown.
Inspirational skipper Siya Kolisi looks a little lost. Fullback Willie le Roux looks older than his 32 years and halfback Faf de Klerk just comes across as a one-trick pony.
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They enjoyed some success in their first test against the Wallabies on the Gold Coast before losing 28-26 thanks to Quade Cooper's last-ditch penalty but they attempted to play with more width in Brisbane and crashed even heavier. They appear confused about which game plan to follow and, worryingly for them, in Townsville they will meet an All Blacks team which has never played with more clarity under Ian Foster.
The contrast could hardly be greater. Every All Black is delivering for Foster, with some who have been around for a while, including Nepo Laulala, Joe Moody and Rieko Ioane, going to new levels, and the form of hooker Samisoni Taukei'aho and flanker Ethan Blackadder may ask questions of the selectors this week.
The All Blacks' set piece was immaculate in the 36-13 win over Argentina at Suncorp Stadium and they have a back three (anyone from George Bridge, Jordie Barrett, Will Jordan, Sevu Reece, Rieko Ioane and Damian McKenzie) who can turn a wayward Boks' kick into a depressing exercise in futility for their great rivals.
No one should underestimate the effects of the Boks playing no tests and limited Super Rugby (against New Zealand and Australian teams) last year due to Covid, but they appeared on track after winning the British and Irish Lions series, during which, incredibly, they showed more ambition than Warren Gatland's tourists, and beating Argentina in their two Rugby Championship tests.
From the highs of their fully deserved World Cup triumph in 2019, they have lost their world No1 ranking after only seven tests. They are a team in decline and they appear to have few ideas about how to rectify the situation.
Should the All Blacks play with discipline and accuracy at the Queensland Country Bank Stadium, the Boks could be on the end of a humiliation.