Just 617 caps among the 23 players compared to 1339 from the team that won the 2015 World Cup and last Saturday night’s All Blacks capped a three-test whitewash with a 49-14 triumph under the roof in Dunedin.
Yes the French did get some shocking calls once more from the referee and the TMO and proved to be very competitive for 40 to 50 minutes. But when the All Blacks cut loose, their fast, slick attack was far too good.
Lock Scott Barrett put to rest fears they would continue to miss the injured Brodie Retallick with easily his best performance in the black jersey. Like Retallick and the late Sir Colin Meads long before him, he was in everything; a dynamic force that tormented the tourists throughout.
There was also more reward than risk from mercurial Damian McKenzie, the featherweight first-five who punches like a heavyweight with his lightning thrusts that often lead to tries.
He scored two himself, albeit with the help of a referee who blocked a would-be tackler, and his setting up of one of Rieko Ioane’s three was pure magic and exquisite timing.
If a few little errors stopped McKenzie from getting the perfect 10 Ioane and Barrett deserved, his sharp attack and flawless goal-kicking earned him a 9.
It’s also difficult to fault speedster Ioane who is excelling on the wing after being tried at second-five and centre earlier in the season by Blues coach Tana Umaga.
My concern about injury-prone Sonny Bill Williams getting a start after such long break proved unjustified with the big man gelling nicely with McKenzie before he was sidelined with an AC joint shoulder injury that will keep him out for three weeks.
With so many good midfield backs to choose from, including the versatile Jordie Barrett, the selectors won’t sweat too much over his absence.
But they will be delighted with the progress made by McKenzie and Scott Barrett with the latter’s mobility suggesting he’s just as capable of playing in the No 6 and 8 jerseys. just as his father, Kevin, was.
Certainly Scott has more to offer at 6 and 8 than Luke Whitelock whose forte is his defence and high work rate rather than his ponderous attack.
That is also true of the lively Liam Squire when he is injury-free.
Selectors Steve Hansen, Ian Foster and Grant Fox will also have noted their team gained more ball from the breakdowns when clever technician Matt Todd replaced the athletic Ardie Savea at openside flanker.
While a bad referee’s call tainted the second test when France was reduced to 14 men for much of the match, the margin of the home team’s wins in the first and third highlighted their superiority.
That they could achieve it without the world class Read and Dane Coles said much for the depth of talent they can choose from. Coles’ replacement hooker Codie Taylor was, in fact, the outstanding first test player.
While England may have saved coach Eddie Jones’ head from the chopping block with their third test win, South Africa deserved to win the series 2-1, just as Ireland did against Australia, albeit with the help of Israel Folau’s unfortunate yellow card when he collided in the air with Peter O’Mahony who retired injured.
Ivan Agnew is an award-winning sports writer and author