The pervasive gloom that had infected New Zealand rugby in recent months dissipated Sunday, neutralized by the All Blacks' record 52-16 win over South Africa's Springboks in Pretoria.
Until the eve of the Tri-Nations match, New Zealand fans clamored on sports talkback shows to express a lack of confidence in coach John Mitchell, his direction and the form of his controversial captain Reuben Thorne in a World Cup season.
The tenor changed yesterday after New Zealanders watched their team score seven tries to beat South Africa. Talkback callers were suddenly in a mood to forgive Mitchell, whose harsh selection policies and obtuse modes of speech had made him an unpopular figure within New Zealand. Now there's calls for an end to criticism which has dogged the All Blacks this year.
The axing by Mitchell of public favorites Christian Cullen, Taine Randell and Anton Oliver had soured New Zealanders on their national coach. Suddenly, critics were prepared to admit they discerned a method in Mitchell's madness.
Mitchell has spoken repeatedly of the All Blacks being on a "journey" in which individual results were less important than the World Cup in October.
Former All Black flyhalf Grant Fox described the performance in Pretoria as the best of Mitchell's era.