Record-setting All Blacks will look to extend streak
THE All Blacks didn't have it all their own way, but helped by a brace of tries from Julian Savea they surged to a 37-10 win against Australia and a world-record 18th consecutive Test victory.
They will take the time to enjoy their world record moment, but the All Blacks won't be ready yet for history to judge them.
That they are a great side is beyond question. There's simply no way any team can win 18 consecutive Tests by chance.
A run like that shows the team has an unprecedented ability to uphold the highest standards of professionalism, discipline and belief.
Nothing prevents them from going through their training routines, their planning, their preparation and then their execution.
They have had to weather injuries and done it seamlessly.
They had to farewell six of the greatest All Blacks in history halfway through their run and yet they managed to carry on as if they hadn't noticed.
The greatest captain of all took them through the first eight games but the one that has replaced him, Kieran Read, could yet prove himself to be just as strong and effective as a leader.
Maybe even more so.
Test football swings on the tiniest margins and a team need only be off by a fraction to lose a game no one thought they could.
For 18 Tests, this All Blacks side hasn't been off by a fraction and that in itself is worthy of being considered a great side.
Yet an 18-Test undefeated run isn't the full picture.
These All Blacks are incredible in the way they can repeat big performance after big performance and how they don't let the occasion get the better of them.
This run of theirs includes a World Cup campaign, four Bledisloe Cup Tests and three games against the Boks.
It's a run in which they have played the most breathtaking rugby, display a depth of character and a touch of opportunistic magic.
It is a run that has advanced the reputations of a handful of great players, discovered a few new ones who may become world-class in time and strengthened coach Steve Hansen's claim to be considered the greatest coach of the professional era.
But the big thing is, it hasn't come to an end and knocking off 18 won't result in this team losing any motivation to keep winning - to keep trying to get better and one day deliver the perfect performance.
If they let their history be their guide, their greatness could be stifled.
By beating the former record of consecutive victories, they could be content to push the record up by just one.
That's not their thinking, however.
They will endeavour to enjoy the next few days, take in what they have done, and then assemble in Auckland this Friday with a view to getting back into full preparation mode to play Ireland in Chicago on November 5.
The challenge they have set themselves is to keep their focus sharp and their feet on the ground.
If they can do that, tick all the boxes they need to in training, then who would bet against them finishing the year with 22 consecutive victories and the second perfect season?
There's just no need to be in any rush to judge this team quite yet.
They have more to come.
What happens next?
November 6 v Ireland in Chicago.
November 13 v Italy in Rome.
November 20 v Ireland in Dublin.
November 27 v France in Paris.