New Zealand suffered a psychological blow against South Africa the likes of which they will struggle to overcome before the World Cup begins on Friday, according to The Irish Times' Gerry Thornley.
The All Blacks suffered their biggest ever defeat in the final warm-up game prior to landing in France for the World Cup, as South Africa dominated them in Twickenham last month.
This came just over a month after New Zealand had shellshocked the World Champions with a blitzkrieg in the opening 20 minutes to beat South Africa in the Rugby Championship.
However, unlike South Africa's 35-20 defeat in Auckland, New Zealand's 35-7 defeat in Twickenham will have a lasting impact on the psyche of their players, according to Thornley.
The All Blacks look vulnerable
Speaking on Wednesday Night Rugby, Thornley broke down why the Springboks were not as hurt by their loss to New Zealand as the All Blacks will be by their loss to the Springboks.
"In that 10-match-winning sequence, before they got routed in Twickenham by the Springboks, you had to wonder what they were beating in terms of the Australian and Argentinian sides they beat," Thornley said.
"Even when they beat the Springboks at home, it was largely on the basis of a a brilliant 20 minutes. A bit like what the Springboks did to them, except not as much on the scoreboard.
"They completely caught he Springboks cold, and it was the sheer tempo of the recycling. They were able to get around that blitz defence.
"But, if you actually looked at the whole game thereafter, the Springboks could take an awful lot from the last 60 minutes of that match.
"Their power game yielded quite the dividend and they were pushing at the end for two bonus points. They came right back into a game that they were getting eviscerated in in the first quarter."
Thornley contrasted the Auckland test with the Twickenham test and why the Springboks' dominance was different to the All Blacks'.
"Cue the Springboks' mauling of the All Blacks at Twickenham, and there was no respite for the All Blacks," Thornley said. "They were just routed over 80 minutes.
"They've found a couple of props, but Tyrel Lomax is injured for the first game now. They're not as powerful in the second row. There's no doubt about it, Brody Retallick and Sam Whitelock are not the forces of yore.
"They don't have a Richie McCaw or a Kieran Reid-type figure, a brilliant player though Ardie Savea is, in the back row. Beauden Barrett doesn't seem quite the player he was four or even eight years ago.
"Overall, you'd have to think that the South Africans pulling out of Super Rugby has damaged them. That seems to be the evidence so far.
"They look a particularly vulnerable All Blacks side now at the moment."
With the new record defeat, and Ireland beating New Zealand in New Zealand, Thornley believes the aura of the All Blacks has long since disappeared.
"They don't actually impose themselves on teams," Thornley said. "We've seen that a lot against Ireland. That's why Ireland have beaten them six out of the last nine times.
"They've long since stopped dominating games over a long period of time. I think that Springboks mauling at Twickenham, a bit like the mauling Ireland took four years ago by England, leaves them slightly damaged goods."
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