James Mortimer 29.Dec.2013Getty Images
There will be no complacency from the All Blacks, who have been warned by coach Steve Hansen that they are only just ahead of the chasing pack.
A remarkable 14 Test wins might lead to many coaches thinking they have done the job, but the team believed the gap was narrow.
Mental strength certainly was at the top of the list, while Hansen believed the team had their fair share of luck, knowing that many opponents had managed to draw blood from the All Blacks this year.
“We’re not that far ahead of anybody,” Hansen said.
“We’ve been lucky enough to come through the season unbeaten but there have been times where we have been close.
“But through sheer tenacity and determination we’ve done it.”
Hansen said there would be plenty more hard work in front of the team, with a potential 30 percent jump in improvement a target for the team for the 2014 season.
Earlier in the year the coaching team said that this group of players were perhaps the hardest working group they had encountered, with the team as a whole wary that only the tough yards would keep them on world rugby’s summit.
However the All Blacks were very pleased they had gone where no other team in the professional era had gone before.
“We can be proud of that record,” Hansen said.
“But we’ve got to keep working really hard or other teams will catch us.”
After such a year of rugby, the All Blacks coach, now with a 26-1-1 record over 28 Test matches, said there were two matches that defined the team during the 2013 season.
“I think there are two great moments,” he said.
“The game at Ellis Park was special; both teams played really great rugby.
“To win there…we hadn’t won there for a long time.”
However the miraculous comeback in Dublin was still clearly vivid in the memory of the All Blacks coach.
“Your 19 points down after 18 minutes,” he said.
“Your opposition is Ireland and they are playing as good as they have ever played.
“To be able to get up and win that game, it showed how special the group is.”