The All Blacks are routinely referred to as "mighty", with a proud history that makes New Zealand the greatest of all rugby nations.
The All Blacks can still inspire fear
But despite being number one in the official world rankings, something of the old aura has slipped from the Kiwi crown.
Four World Cups since their inaugural victory in 1987 have brought bouts of national mourning, and they have lost at least two matches in each of the past five years.
With Sir Clive Woodward plotting how to achieve only the Lions' second series win in New Zealand, we examine previous evidence of where the fault-lines can emerge.
SOUTH AFRICA 40-26 NEW ZEALAND, AUGUST 2004
Having suffered his first defeat as coach the previous week in Australia, this shattering Tri-Nations loss put the extent of coach Graham Henry's rebuilding task into perspective.
New Zealand's forward platform disintegrated in the face of a passionate Springboks pack, while their backs ran hard and straight at the heart of the All Blacks defence.
Centre Marius Joubert was the principal destroyer, plundering three of South Africa's five tries with an aggressive intent the Kiwis were ill-equipped to handle.
Some suicidal Sevens-style passing from the All Blacks contributed to their own downfall, their game losing any semblance of structure in the face of the hosts' onslaught.
AUSTRALIA 22-10 NEW ZEALAND, OCTOBER 2003
Taking a few tips from Wales, who gave the All Blacks a hurry-up in the group stages, Australia gave a masterclass in how to beat New Zealand in the World Cup semi-final.
They identified a weakness in the opposition midfield, where Leon MacDonald was filling in for the injured Tana Umaga, and Carlos Spencer was prone to drifting across field.
Mortlock exposed the Kiwis' defence
Wallabies fly-half Steve Larkham fired out long passes and centre Stirling Mortlock made huge in-roads with his powerful running, also claiming an 80m interception try.
Australia limited their midfield kicking to ensure New Zealand's back three did not get a sniff. If they kicked, it was to the touchlines, where they picked off five Kiwi throws.
NEW ZEALAND 13-15 ENGLAND, JUNE 2003
England's pack were described as "giant gargoyles", "cauliflower-eared monoliths" and "white orcs on steroids" after this famous victory.
A back-handed compliment to Graham Rowntree, Steve Thompson, Phil Vickery, Martin Johnson, Ben Kay and Richard Hill, who repelled a series of New Zealand scrums on their own line with Lawrence Dallaglio and Neil Back in the sin-bin.
That memorable act of resistance against a humiliated All Blacks eight summed up the bloody-minded discipline that saw England home on a filthy Wellington night.
Johnson led England's resistance
All Blacks lock Ali Williams vented his frustration by stamping on Josh Lewsey's head, but Lewsey followed Johnson's orders to "shut up and take the bullet".
AUSTRALIA 16-14 NEW ZEALAND, AUGUST 2002
New Zealand are vulnerable against any side that vigorously contest the breakdown, denying their dangerous strike runners a supply of quick ball.
Australia, with Phil Waugh and George Smith to the fore, have proved particularly adept at this recently, and amplify it with their own 'ball maintenance'.
The Wallabies' approach is not universally popular, but taking the ball through multiple phases of possession tends to yield a reward, often in the form of a vital penalty.
This was a classic case in point, as New Zealand's frustration again got the better of them and Matt Burke's penalty sealed a last-minute victory for Australia for the third year in a row.
NEW ZEALAND 23-24 AUSTRALIA, AUGUST 2000
New Zealand have one of the world's best locks in Chris Jack, but have lacked a stand-out performer to partner him, creating uncertainty in the All Blacks line-out.
This area of weakness has been exploited on several occasions in recent years, not least by Australia, and most memorably in Wellington five years ago.
The Wallabies, trailing 23-21 in injury-time, twice kicked the ball to touch, confident of winning their opponents' throw.
Kiwi supporters watched aghast as they did so and from the second, veteran prop Craig Dowd conceded a penalty which the great John Eales slotted with the last kick of the match.