All Blacks captain Richie McCaw is expecting a tight test against Argentina in Napier tomorrow, saying his side will have to show patience against an improving team.
McCaw spoke today after the final training session of the week at McLean Park and said the challenge for the All Blacks was to put their last performance - against Australia at Eden Park a fortnight ago - to rest and lift again.
"Up front it's going to be a good battle so we're going to have to be on the job there to give ourselves some good ball to play. It won't happen straight away," McCaw said.
"They're playing better than perhaps they have the last couple of years, but it's been a challenge each time we've played them. Certainly the last three or four games. The big boys realise it's going to be a challenge there. I think we're up to the challenge.
"The toughest thing in sport is to get your feet back on the ground and back it up.
Hopefully we've had a week's prep where we are in a good frame of mind so the guys can go out there and perform well again."
The return of midfielder Ma'a Nonu from a shoulder injury and selection of first-five Beauden Barrett and fullback Israel Dagg puts a new complexion on the team which is expecting more of the same from the Pumas. Argentina's last three tests in New Zealand - the World Cup quarter-final in 2011 and Rugby Championship tests over the succeeding years have been notable for their tight natures. They invariably start well before being broken down by the All Blacks attack, but McCaw said they have added a new attacking element of their own.
"They've got a pretty good defensive system in terms of their backs and guys like [midfielder Juan Martin] Hernandez and their fullback [Joaquin Tuculet] played pretty damn well against the Springboks and scored some good points there. If we give them easy ball at the right end of the field they've got the ability to make you pay."