Patrick McKendry

Patrick McKendry is a rugby writer for the Herald.

Why the Pumas and Boks will test the All Blacks more

The Pumas, who scored their first Rugby Championship competition points with their draw against the Springboks in Mendoza in the weekend, have little to lose.  Photo / Greg Bowker
The Pumas, who scored their first Rugby Championship competition points with their draw against the Springboks in Mendoza in the weekend, have little to lose. Photo / Greg Bowker

Patrick McKendry of APNZ looks at five reasons why the Pumas and Springboks will tell us more about the All Blacks than the Wallabies did.

Size, strength, set piece
The lack of impact from the Australian forwards against the All Blacks can be encapsulated in one eyebrow-raising statistic - they carried the ball for a total of 80 metres over both tests. The All Blacks were three times better in this respect. During the Sydney test the All Blacks were hardly blowing, such was the stop-start nature of it. At Eden Park they were puffing due to the high tempo but were hardly beaten up. That will change against the Pumas in Wellington a week on Saturday and the Springboks in Dunedin on September 15. Both packs contain big, angry men and both pride themselves on their set pieces. The All Blacks' scrum was no more than steady against the Wallabies and the lineout a bit sloppy. Ireland turned the heat on their scrum in June - expect the Pumas, in particular, to have a real crack here.

Game plan
Simply put, the Aussies didn't seem to have one, but the Pumas and Boks will and it won't be complicated. In Sydney, the Aussies went the conservative route with Berrick Barnes at first-five and appeared to be content with damage control. In Auckland, Quade Cooper was given a go but failed to fire a shot, perhaps not surprisingly given the carnage occurring in front of him. Argentina will try to suffocate with their big men and score in increments of three. It worked pretty well for them in last year's World Cup quarter-final before the All Blacks took control in the final 20 minutes. The South Africans will have more ambition but with Morne Steyn calling the shots as playmaker, they too will likely play for territory, force mistakes, and kick the resulting penalties.

The R word
Steve Hansen is not for rotating - the only change he made in the first two tests was an injury-forced one, with Wyatt Crockett coming in for Tony Woodcock at loosehead prop. A stable line-up has worked well for him, but he might be tempted to ring a few changes over the coming weeks. The reserves didn't get much of a crack in Sydney - the lack of intensity in the match didn't warrant changes - but in Auckland they all impressed, especially Aaron Cruden and Ben Smith. Expect another steady selection for Wellington - lock Luke Romano, who has a sore shoulder, is the only player under a question mark - and Conrad Smith is on track to come back into the midfield following Sonny Bill Williams' exit.

Travel factor
Sydney, Auckland, Wellington, Dunedin - it's hardly a daunting schedule for the All Blacks. After that it gets interesting, though, with the All Blacks playing Argentina in Buenos Aires and then flying direct to Johannesburg. Their final Bledisloe Cup match, a dead rubber, is in Brisbane on October 20. This could be Robbie Deans' last match in charge of the Wallabies. Either way, they are likely to be fired up for it and not before time. Apart from loose forward Scott Higginbotham, who looked eager to hurt someone, anyone, at Eden Park before he was surprisingly replaced, the Aussies exhibited all the menace of a sleepy kitten.

Mentality
The Pumas, who scored their first Rugby Championship competition points with their draw against the Springboks in Mendoza in the weekend, have little to lose. Their expectations going into the series were low and they will be looking forward to testing themselves against Hansen's men in Wellington and then at home. The Springboks, ranked below the Wallabies in third, won't fear the All Blacks much either. They travel to Dunedin following their match against Australia in Perth. The Wallabies say all they have to play for is retaining their No2 ranking. A more defensive mindset can hardly be imagined, and this after the team and coach were united in saying the All Blacks can't be beaten on this form.

- APNZ

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