All Blacks hammer poor Springboks
The All Blacks were competent, rather than convincing, in beating South Africa 40-7 in tonight's Tri Nations test at Westpac Stadium in Wellington.
They started well, finished usefully, but in between played some average rugby against, what you'd have to call, ordinary international opposition.
That this Springbok side, minus 21 front-line players, were poor came as no surprise.
But it was a shame for the international game in general and made it very difficult to get a good read on just where this win leaves the All Blacks.
They started strongly, but given how low the expectations of a competitive match were, it proved difficult to get too enthused by what New Zealand gave us in the opening 15 minutes.
Everyone connected with prop Wyatt Crockett and wing Zac Guildford would have been delighted to see both score their first test tries. The only qualification being that this was a Springbok team looking as far below test status as most people had feared.
Confused on defence and belittled at scrum time, this was a shadow of the sides that earned South Africa their status as New Zealand's greatest foes.
Down 13-0 before you'd even had time to digest the All Blacks' new jerseys, a long and dismal night seemed certain for the visitors.
Instead it was the crowd who began to have enough. The Springboks enjoyed a sustained spell of possession, which was all the encouragement the bored fans needed to roll out the Mexican Wave.
Sure enough South Africa, through captain and hooker John Smit, scored and the fans returned to their seats in a hurry.
If they were sulking, the All Blacks suddenly seemed to be as well, failing to control possession, getting a bit kick-happy and generally looking like they'd forgotten the art of ruthless efficiency.
It's strange how your game can suddenly elude you, as Hurricanes fullback Cory Jane knows only too well. Nothing's gone right for him this year, but restored to the All Blacks and the right wing, he unexpectedly became the man to re-ignite the black machine.
A wayward kick was retrieved, and the ball flung his way in the 34th minute. South Africa's defence opened before him and he must have almost wet his pants when he saw the only player standing between him and the tryline was brittle old Morne Steyn.
Jane duly rounded him and, with Carter again missing the conversion, New Zealand went into the break leading 18-7.
Four minutes after the resumption Jane was in again, following a scything Carter run. With the extras added this time, it was 25-7 and time for the rout to begin.
That it never really happened must be of some concern to the national selectors. The stage was set and dynamic players like Sonny Bill Williams, Piri Weepu and Liam Messam introduced off the bench, but there remained something unconvincing about the All Blacks performance.
It wasn't like South Africa got any better, either. More that this New Zealand side is still searching for its best.
No-one exemplified that better than Carter. Having become international rugby's highest points-scorer, when he booted a second-minute penalty, the great first-five-eighth kicked just two of his next six attempts.
On that basis, you might suggest he was having a poor night. Only his running, passing and kicking from hand were about as good as they've ever been. In other words, superb.
It was putting the complete game together that neither he, nor his team-mates, were capable of just two matches into their massive international season.
New Zealand 40 (Zac Guildford 2, Cory Jane 2, Wyatt Crockett, Colin Slade tries; Daniel Carter 2 pens, 2 cons)
South Africa 7 (John Smit try; Morne Steyn con). HT: 18-7.