As if they needed another portent, their captain, Kieran Read, whose form and fitness this year have been questioned, led from the front.
It was all a declaration that a team which has never lost a match in the pool round of a Rugby World Cup will again be the side to beat this year in Japan.
Saturday’s 23-13 defeat of the Springboks was not the only pain to be suffered by SA. A group of South African fans spoilt the moment of the haka with undignified chanting of “Olé, olé”.
It was vile, uncouth and uncultured. They can get away with such behaviour at home, but there’s an expectation to behave better when you are a visitor in someone else’s house.
What went unnoticed was that SA went into the game as favourites, a position that’s uncomfortable for them, while the All Blacks were happy for the opposition to lap up the limelight ahead of the match.
New Zealand then went on to provide a masterclass in using the opportunities. After a fast but unrewarding start, the Springboks committed three errors that New Zealand turned into 17 points.
It’s those narrow margins that separate the good from the great. A team of New Zealand’s class, skill and experience has the sense to know when to grab a game by the scruff of the neck.
It was a message that the All Blacks, despite their recent ordinary form, can’t be taken lightly.
As for the Boks, they will have to take stock. A decision they will regret is not having flyhalf Elton Jantjies on the bench. He would have provided relief for a misfiring Handre Pollard. Instead, the Boks had as a backup Frans Steyn, who did not even come on in the second half. It spoke volumes of Jantjies’s omission.
Faf de Klerk, another key player in Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus’s plan, also had a poor game. With the Bok halfbacks malfunctioning, the forwards’ hard work was neutralised.
On the credit side, the Bok pack thrived in spite of referee Jerome Garces’s not unexpected generosity towards the All Blacks.
Nevertheless, this cannot detract from New Zealand’s effective rope-a-dope strategy of avoiding the big hits of the Bok forwards, all the while seeking, and exploiting, the opportunities that came their way with two long-range tries.
The good news for South African rugby fans is that the Boks are not out of the World Cup. They also lost their opening match at the 2015 World Cup (the famous defeat by Japan) and still reached the semifinals, when they narrowly lost to … New Zealand, of course. Today’s match between Ireland and Scotland should determine who the Boks will face in the quarterfinals.