All Blacks: Improving Pumas will be taken seriously

By Campbell Burnes

All Blacks captain Richie McCaw on attack against Argentina in Wellington last season. Photo / Mark Mitchell
All Blacks captain Richie McCaw on attack against Argentina in Wellington last season. Photo / Mark Mitchell

The All Blacks are acutely aware the Pumas are tougher to beat in New Zealand than in Argentina.

Conrad Smith, for one, has respected the Pumas from the time they gave the All Blacks a shake-up in the quarter-final of Rugby World Cup 2011.

The soon-to-be world champions eventually prevailed 33-10 but only pulled away late in the encounter.

More All Blacks v Argentina
Luatua determined to leave kicking to others
Hansen wants same mastery
Rugby Herald Stats Centre

"I'm not entirely sure why it's like that, but it is something we have talked about.

Potentially they are a different side, a different beast, and we've been a bit slow to learn when we first played them," says the new father, gearing up for his 79th test in Napier.

"They are getting better and better. That was always going to be the case the more exposure they have in this Rugby Championship.

"They are a passionate side that have good people behind them off the field. I have noticed they have been very competitive here and we've gone over there and played really good rugby to put them away, so we give them a lot of respect. We're fully aware of how tough the games are going to be.

"I've always respected them. I probably respect them more now in terms of the type of rugby they play now. As you've seen, they can match that passion with some classy skill and execution through their backline."

They have, in left wing Manuel Montero, a big, powerful finisher in the George North mould who crossed for a five-pointer in the Pumas' heartbreaking 33-31 defeat to the Springboks in Salta 10 days ago.

Though a draw in 2012 is the Pumas' only taste of anything other than a loss in the Rugby Championship, they now have more breadth to their game, a powerful scrum and more self-belief. A victory will surely come sooner rather than later.

"I don't like to admit it, and I don't like to think it would happen on my watch, but if they have a couple of cracks a year at us, then they will knock us off, but it's not something that any All Blacks side likes to think about," said Smith.

Though international sides like to talk up what they do, the Pumas' style has come under much scrutiny over the last two days in camp, said Smith.

"There are still things that are consistent with them about their play, particularly around the set-piece.

"The way they defend is slightly different and they are very good at it. We want to simulate that at training better than we have in the last couple of years.

"We want to make sure our preparation is for the team we are playing and not just for how we have played in the past."

Smith should resume his midfield partnership with Ma'a Nonu, who has recovered from a short-term shoulder issue. The pair have not worn the 12-13 jerseys in tandem since the June 14 second test against England.

Lock Brodie Retallick was preparing for a physical clash with Pumas second-rower Tomas Lavanini, a 21-year-old with 12 tests to his name who has spent some time in the Chiefs camp.

Visit the Herald Rugby Stats Centre with Opta

- NZ Herald

Stats provided by

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production bpcf04 at 29 Nov 2014 19:30:27 Processing Time: 562ms