Cape Town - At cricket or soccer World Cups, there would usually be a reasonable prospect of turning around defeat in game one to still top a group.
But this is rugby, where heavyweights prevail nine times out of the proverbial 10 over “second-tier” nations, and the Springboks bouncing back - even with three rounds to go in Pool B - from their Yokohama defeat to the All Blacks to finish atop it seems desperately unlikely.
That is not least because being grouped with the defending champions means the Boks (and their great southern rivals) have relatively flimsy remaining opponents in a sport where there is still a large gap between the - limited - top-tier powers and the minnows.
On the very minor plus side, South Africa denied New Zealand a bonus point to go with the four winning log points on Saturday by preventing them from getting four tries (it was just two).
Then again, had Handre Pollard not struck an upright, for instance, with that costly 18th-minute penalty from a range he usually goals in his sleep, the Boks might well - and deservedly - have finished within seven to bank a losing bonus point of their own.
But would that have even mattered?
Probably not: the only chance the Boks have now of winning Pool B - for the “easier” knockout route - will be if they thump all of Namibia, Italy and Canada by generous margins (ideally picking up bonus points every time) and hope against hope that the All Blacks sensationally crash against one of them.
Sensational it would genuinely be, too: every bit as juddering as the Boks’ 2015 reverse to Japan at Brighton, perhaps even if that All Black hiccup were to come against the moderately decent Italians - seemingly the best shot at it occurring.
Yet even then, it might require NZ to crash without even banking a losing bonus point, if the Boks are to actually sneak a point ahead on the final table rather than simply level.
Truth be told, the All Blacks are traditionally superior to the Boks at putting away minnow opponents by large margins.
Not for nothing do they occupy such a prominent position in the World Cup statistical categories for most points by a team in a single match (they appear three times in the top five) and also for biggest win margins (again, three instances in top five).
That includes in the first-named category, of course, those still unrivalled 145 points posted against Japan at Bloemfontein in the 1995 event.
The Boks’ name doesn’t appear amidst the top five of either sections.
What price on historical grounds, too, New Zealand slipping up against any of Canada (October 2), Namibia (October 6) or Italy (October 12)?
Let’s examine the Italy scenario first, also not losing sight of the fact that the Boks have lost to those foes once already (2016) in 14 encounters.
The All Blacks have similarly played the Azzurri 14 times ... but they sport a 100 percent win record, and a hefty 820-131 difference in points registered in the process.
In the last two meetings, both in Rome, NZ have prevailed 66-3 (2018) and 68-10 (2016).
When it comes to Canada, it is also notably one-way traffic in All Black favour: 5-0 overall ... including, in purely World Cup terms, 29-13 in 1991, 68-6 in 2003 and 79-15 in 2011.
New Zealand have only played Namibia once previously, earning a slightly heavy-weather 58-14 triumph at the last World Cup (Olympic Stadium, London).
An All Black disaster ahead of the quarter-finals, to lose control of the pool and avoid the highly likely Irish hurdle that is instead staring the Springboks in the face?
Don’t rush out to stake your salary on it.
*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing