With another trophy locked in the cabinet, it’s time for the All Blacks to start building again.
The white-hot world champions will make player depth a priority for the remainder of the Rugby Championship after securing the silverware on Saturday with two weekends to spare.
The 41-14 drubbing of South Africa maintained their six-try average through four rounds and gave them an unassailable 11-point lead over second-placed Australia.
Coach Steve Hansen could barely suppress a smile as the juggernaut he has constructed rolled on in Christchurch, once again built around superior fitness, speed and bench depth over the last half-hour.
Hansen has kept changes to the bare minimum throughout the championship but says that will change in the remaining Tests, against the Pumas in Buenos Aires and the Springboks in Durban.
“We’re getting to that point in the season where we have to roll the dice,” Hansen said.
“You can’t keep playing the same athletes all the time and expect to have that same zip and zing come the end of the season.”
One change could well come on the blindside flank after veteran Jerome Kaino suffered a shoulder injury.
The extent of the damage is uncertain but back-ups Elliott Dixon and Liam Squire will probably enter the equation to start alongside Ardie Savea, who made an impressive first run-on performance at openside in Christchurch.
“We’re going to have to use the rest of the squad and that will probably start in Argentina,” Hansen said.
“There will be some new faces on the bench and maybe even playing. We’ll have to play it smart.”
Hansen’s tinkering could put a 15-Test winning run at risk. They need three more victories to surpass the world record which the All Blacks of 1965-69 and 2013-14 share with the 1997-98 Springboks.
Springboks coach Allister Coetzee is convinced his side will be more competitive in Durban, having squandered a combative start which saw them trailing just 15-10 at halftime.
However, he concedes there is a considerable gulf to close.
“New Zealand’s systems are working well. The transition from World Cup-winning team to the next has been very, very good, unlike in our case,” he said.
“They know when to play, where to play, without making mistakes.”
Following three straight losses on the road, changes are expected for the Springboks ahead of their Test against Australia in Pretoria on October 1.