Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

Wynne Gray: Prowling Pumas don't need to play pretty game

Argentina's Los Pumas players celebrate after defeating South Africa 26-24. Photo / AP
Argentina's Los Pumas players celebrate after defeating South Africa 26-24. Photo / AP

Come on down you Pumas, really get your rumble on tonight in Hamilton.

Flex those muscles you've developed in the gyms, show us some of that old gaucho grunt in the scrums, smash into the breakdowns, nail your lineouts and get that driving cohesion in your rolling mauls sorted. Then do it again and again.

It doesn't matter if it's not pretty. Don't get sucked into all the flossy hype about rugby being a 15-man game.

There will be times when it's on to shift the ball to the speedsters but this is test time where you cut your poncho to the game which will benefit you most and make the most demands on the All Blacks.

The Wallabies resisted with all the force of spinifex in high winds. They were blown away up front and conceded the Bledisloe Cup as easily as they have done since way back when. The All Blacks had a free forwards pass in Sydney and only pockets of conflict in Wellington.

They were invitations for the backs to work their magic and when the clock stopped the series slaughter at the Cake Tin, the All Blacks had won the series by a combined 71-17 margin. These All Blacks are playing some vibrant rugby but that was an embarrassing offering from the transtasman rivals.

It gave the All Blacks two games where they made further progress on their interactive style, where tight forwards got even more practice on the multi-layer systems the coaches want the 2016 squad to play.

Those two tests were not much more than opposed training runs but damned useful for helping the detail and imbuing the All Blacks with even more confidence about their ability. Cheers, cobber.

But there will be tough times ahead when the weather turns dirty, a few errors creep in and games disintegrate into stop-start messy wrestles or the referee takes a dislike to the All Black practices.

The Pumas need to get that going tonight. It has been some time since the All Blacks were given a nudge up front and had their frames checked to see if they matched their undoubted fitness. Banging bodies should be the Pumas starting point tonight, not biffing heads or potshots because the judiciary takes a dim view of that.

Hooker Agustin Creevy is a terrific player whose tussle with Dane Coles should be one of the individual highlights. The Pumas captain has been one of the standouts in his Rugby Championship and World Cup tests against the All Blacks and has to galvanise his men to emulate his productive ferocity. They have to nudge the All Blacks back, hold the ball like a wheel-clamp and sap the hosts' energy on defence. Use the rolling maul, play for penalties and cut down the All Blacks space because, initially, that is the only way to place them under pressure.

Squeeze them up front and hassle Aaron Smith. It's not a new theory but one few have been able to exert consistently or put into practice but one which is always worth a go. And one the All Blacks coaches will appreciate, too.

- NZ Herald

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Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

The latest commentary and analysis from senior rugby writer Wynne Gray. Wynne has been covering the All Blacks for more than 27 years and has attended more than 230 All Blacks tests live for the Herald.

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