Patrick McKendry

Patrick McKendry is a rugby writer for the Herald.

Rugby: All Blacks size up 'rhino bulls'

All Black Dan Carter pushes through the defense during the All Blacks v Australia match. Photo / Sarah Ivey
All Black Dan Carter pushes through the defense during the All Blacks v Australia match. Photo / Sarah Ivey

With the Australian threat, such that it was, comfortably repelled, the All Blacks now have a change of focus - in terms of size at least there are much bigger challenges ahead in the Rugby Championship.

Argentina and South Africa present different tests compared with the Wallabies. Both base their games around forward domination, both take immense pride in their set pieces and physical confrontation. They might not be as skilful as the Australians but they know what their strengths are - observers are still searching for the Wallabies' game plan after feeble efforts in Sydney and Auckland.

All Blacks coach Steve Hansen said he hoped Argentina and South Africa, which he referred to as "rhino bulls", had knocked lumps out of each other during their 16-16 draw in Mendoza in the weekend, the first competition points for the Pumas after they lost their first encounter to the Springboks.

Hansen's men will meet early next week to prepare for their next match against Argentina in Wellington on September 8.

The All Blacks, as world champions on a roll, will be confident they can adapt their game to any eventuality but the Argentines provided a few problems for the home team in their World Cup quarter-final last year.

It was a match won 33-10 by the All Blacks but they only gained control in the final quarter and looked a little spooked by the Pumas' suffocating style.

It is hard to find fault with the super consistent Kieran Read, but a missed tackle from the No8 allowed the Pumas to score through loose forward Julio Farias Cabello in that match to send a few jitters through the Eden Park crowd.

Read, who has quickly found his feet again after a rib injury limited his preparation for this series, said: "We have to regroup and expect different challenges in the next two games. Definitely from the forwards' point of view it's an exciting challenge because they're two of the biggest packs in the world. The focus probably changes in terms of playing the game but we're building nicely.

"It's the nature of playing against those two teams. They pride themselves on their forward play so we want to continue playing the way we are but games tend to be tighter and a lot more physical against the Boks, definitely, and we learned that against the Argies last year as well."

With Sonny Bill Williams' departure balanced by Conrad Smith's return, the forwards are not the only ones who will be receiving a tune-up next week.

Ma'a Nonu will move from centre to second-five, with Smith slotting back into the No13 jersey after his absence with an eye injury and playmaker Dan Carter sees plenty of positives in the shift.

"It gives Ma'a an opportunity to go into his preferred position of 12 and I'm sure he'll be a lot more comfortable to be playing in the 12 jersey so we'll just have to work really hard on sorting that combination out because it's been almost a year since we've played alongside each other," Carter said.

"There's definitely some work that we have to do to get those combinations right."

- APNZ

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