Ireland could well be better off playing New Zealand than South Africa in the World Cup quarter-final.
The aura around the All Blacks’ invincibility has faded slightly, losing personnel, like Israel Dagg to retirement and Damian McKenzie to injury, even losing their grip on the number one ranking to Ireland this year.
There is a solid argument to be made that the cracks started to appear on that unforgettable evening in Chicago, back on November 5, 2016.
Prior to that, they had strung together an astonishing record of 48 wins against two losses, to South Africa and Australia, and one draw against the Wallabies, stretching all the way back to June 2013.
Since Ireland thwarted their drive for a world-record 19 straight victories, there have been 28 wins, six losses and two draws from 36 Test matches, including three from the break-even series against the British & Irish Lions.
More recently, the All Blacks have been beaten in two of their last six Tests, by Ireland and Australia, and have drawn one to South Africa, the decline prompted by what happened in the Aviva last November.
In a stunning turnabout, there are more questions than answers about New Zealand as they struggle through the conundrum of where best to situate Beauden Barrett and whether Brodie Retallick really can make it back from that shoulder injury.
In simple playing terms, New Zealand hold onto the belief that they can outscore the opposition.
There has always been a greater weight placed on attack than defence, a proposition that has come under scrutiny this year.
Ireland struggle most when they are prevented from rolling out Joe Schmidt’s play list.
The All Blacks tendency to allow nations to play suits Ireland’s strategy to identify weakness and exploit it, as Jacob Stockdale did against them last November.
On the other hand, South Africa seem to be timing their form to perfection, the employment of Rassie Erasmus coinciding with an upturn in their fortunes.
Neither are they under the same ‘brand pressure’ to perform, to lead the way globally.
That is why they don’t always put their best, or biggest, feet forward every November.
They do have the super-human size up front to stall Ireland on the gain line and make Conor Murray and Jonathan Sexton play off the backfoot.
England and Wales have shown how Ireland struggle if collisions are not going their way.
The presence of defence guru Jacques Nienaber means the Springboks will look to blitz at every opportunity.
They do not allow you to play on your terms and that would be a big problem for Ireland.
Rugby World Cup 2019
We begin with a question. The rain is falling, the wind is blowing hard and the forwards are going hell for leather. The tackles are flying, the ref is letting things go and the carries are hard and you look up to the man whose job it is to rise above and control the game.