Patrick McKendry

Patrick McKendry is a rugby writer for the Herald.

Rugby: All Blacks alerted to risks abroad

Argentine Federal Police outriders stand by to escort the All Black team to training after a New Zealand All Blacks press conference. File photo / Getty Images
Argentine Federal Police outriders stand by to escort the All Black team to training after a New Zealand All Blacks press conference. File photo / Getty Images

The All Blacks leave for their most difficult stage of the Rugby Championship on Saturday and will be reminded of the need to be vigilant about their safety in Buenos Aires and Johannesburg.

Their first assignment is a trip from Auckland to the Argentine capital via a short stopover in Santiago, Chile - a necessary stop for a commercial flight, which they avoided last year because of a direct charter.

The 28-player team will quickly become aware of the security arrangements once they land in Buenos Aires - a police escort which is likely to surprise and delight the team in equal measure.

Escorting them to the hotel in central Buenos Aires will be a group of riot police in body armour. They will be on motorbikes, two to a machine, the passenger likely to be holding a snub-nosed tear gas firearm at the ready. He will also be armed with a pistol and a rubber baton - the latter to use on vehicles which find themselves in the way.

Last year on the All Blacks' first away Rugby Championship trip to Argentina, the police turned out in force to escort the team to trainings at a private school on the outskirts of the city and to and from the airport. However, they outdid themselves on match day in a dramatic escort to and from the stadium at La Plata.

"I think I counted 35 police motorbikes taking us to the ground for the game, which is the most I've ever seen," All Blacks manager Darren Shand said yesterday.

The show of force is designed to both intimidate any would-be criminals and clear a path through traffic, but it is when the players are left to their own devices that any trouble is likely to come.

Last year, on the day the All Blacks were leaving Buenos Aires after their 54-15 victory, New Zealand Rugby Union chairman Mike Eagle and director Gerard van Tilborg were mugged by two men who stole van Tilborg's Rolex watch.

Neither man was hurt in the incident, which was witnessed by their wives. Eagle is not making the trip this year, but not because of the attack.

Several New Zealand supporters were also targeted by opportunists and TVNZ reporter Steve Marshall had his camera stolen.

Shand, who will leave in an advance party of four team officials on Friday, said he would receive expert advice on the security situation in the city.

"The security around the team is extremely comprehensive when we go out. All the players will be advised about being aware and careful when they go out by themselves."

The situation will be the same in Johannesburg a week later for the All Blacks, although the team will rely more on security guards than police.

The South African city is familiar to the All Blacks because of the regular trips during Super Rugby and the old Tri Nations. Players are advised to travel in pairs at least - especially after dark.

- APNZ

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