The All Blacks were handed the unwanted 28-point record defeat as South Africa looked sensational against 14-men to claim the Qatar Airways Cup.
Whilst the score paints an ugly result, it was the perfect one for Ian Foster’s side riding a 12-game undefeated streak, wiping the slate clean ahead of the Rugby World Cup.
If there was a perfect time to take a loss in a meaningless fixture, this was it. In that regard, the All Blacks coaches owe the South Africans a big thank you.
The All Blacks looked lethargic like they had been on holiday in London all week enjoying the sights. Similarly to Chicago in 2016, the neutral venue seems to bring out the worst in the All Blacks without the same focus to the task at hand.
The silver lining here is that a disastrous performance where everything went wrong was flushed out of the system when the consequences were none.
It is the wake-up call they needed, at the perfect time as they head to Germany for a pre-World Cup camp.
In the process the Springboks have become the World Cup favourites, riding high from the Twickenham sugar hit.
This is South Africa’s World Cup to lose now with the Qatar Airways Cup safe and secure. After beating the current World Cup favourites 35-7, there must be no hiding from the favourites tag.
World’s number one Ireland looked incredibly average against Samoa which should have the Springboks smiling. After demolishing Wales and New Zealand over the last fortnight, no side is in such August form.
They should be expected to ride their four-game winning streak into Pool B where they will be expected to top the pool, before smashing through the toughest finals draw in their history.
As yesterday proved, no side down to 14-men also missing their first-choice tighthead prop can stop a rampaging Springbok team.
The incredible power of the Springboks scrum was on show in the 21st minute against a 6-man pack with a 23-year-old anchoring the front row coming back from a foot injury. They totally demolished them.
That scrum dominance continued in the second half without lock Scott Barrett on the field and his brother Jordie trying to play flanker. The All Blacks wisely pulled Whitelock after 10 in the second stanza.
Newell, along with 23-year-old Tamaiti Williams, 22-year-old Josh Lord and 23-year-old Tupou Vaa’i couldn’t overcome a one-man disadvantage in the forwards against the bomb squad in the final thirty. The power of the Springboks pack against spring chickens was truly impressive.
The All Blacks were their own worst enemies with discipline, earning a spate of cards after too many indiscretions. They were duly punished and couldn’t get out of card trouble.
They have no one else to blame for the situation they were in. But that experience at Twickenham will prove invaluable, if not for the chance to rid the squad of any complacency. As Anton Lienert-Brown said in the sheds afterward, they received the ‘biggest gift possible’.
The biggest loss was not on the scoreboard, with two key players in doubt for the opener against France.
If the All Blacks can get a reprieve for Scott Barrett, who was issued two yellow cards, and a positive diagnosis for Tyrel Lomax’s laceration, then they will have escaped without much damage.
Barrett’s second yellow card was not upgraded to red following a review of the bunker, which brings hope. Foster sounded hopeful for Lomax, who suffered a deep cut to the thigh. After 30 stitches overnight he isn’t expected to be back in time for the start of the campaign.
The Hurricanes’ prop is regarded as the best scrummager in New Zealand and the All Blacks will need him back by the knock-out phase. The difference in the set-piece since his elevation to the starting side has been immense.
The alternative options for the All Blacks will leave them vulnerable against France.
The All Blacks will count themselves lucky if the pair are available when it matters.
If so, NZR will escape the foolish venture of scheduling this Test match on the eve of the World Cup.
For the Springboks, the sugar rush from the Qatar Airways Cup will hopefully last longer than a fortnight as they get ready to smash through the unlucky souls in Pool B.