They were always going to play hardball. SR to them isn't an end in itself (i.e. to win the competition), it's a means to produce the strongest possible All Blacks team. Always has been. They concentrate their best players into 5 teams (which is what they deem to be the optimal number) and get them playing at the highest possible level against the best teams. It's why they have never sought to increase the number of teams. Playing SA teams under SA conditions is part of this strategy - it prepares better All Blacks. Winning the SR competition is just a by-product of the strategy.