Patrick McKendry is a rugby and boxing writer for the Herald.

Rugby: Sam Cane out six weeks but All Blacks bench shines

All Blacks flanker Sam Cane gets medical attention after sustaining an injury during Round 3 of the Rugby Championship. Photo / Photosport.co.nz
All Blacks flanker Sam Cane gets medical attention after sustaining an injury during Round 3 of the Rugby Championship. Photo / Photosport.co.nz

The All Blacks had to overcome several challenges against Argentina, most notably the pressure the Pumas put them under and the loss of flanker Sam Cane with a hamstring injury which will keep him out of the game for up to six weeks.

The frustration of halfback Aaron Smith - the best No 9 in the world by some distance - was also something new for them to contend with, but they found the answers in the end, cruising to a 57-22 victory.

Ardie Savea came on for Cane and did what he has been doing all year, and Smith's replacement TJ Perenara, who came on in the 49th minute, was a minor revelation with his accuracy of decision-making and passing.

"We always wanted to give TJ some serious game time in this championship and tonight was the night because Nuggy [Smith] wasn't probably having the night that he wanted," coach Steve Hansen said. "He was frustrated and, at one point, [referee] Craig [Joubert] had a wee chat to him so we thought, 'let's just take him out of it, let's let him think about it and learn from the experience' which he will do.

He's the best halfback in the world for a good number of reasons but tonight wasn't his night.

"It was good for TJ to come on. I thought he was outstanding. He played really well. He cleared the ball quickly off the deck and that was probably the turning point of the game once he started delivering ball which was crisp and clear and he wasn't caught up in the 50 minutes before."

For his part Perenara, playing in his 22nd test, was pleased with the extra time. He normally enters tests much later, but at Waikato Stadium the game was still very much in the balance.

He said it was important for the All Blacks to continue doing what they were doing.

"That's something that we drive in this team - stick to the processes that we train," Perenara said. "We know we're going to come across a lot of different situations on the field, with regards to the scoreboard or the different teams' tactics, but we've got some pretty good players out there. A lot of the times we did things accurately and created opportunities for the likes of the Bus [Julian Savea], [Ryan] Crotty or [Israel] Dagger out there. The Argentine team are a very good team. If we can slowly break them down and go through them it gives other people opportunities.

"I don't think they ran out of gas. I think they still showed a lot of passion, a lot of willing and determination to play some good footy. A few little things stuck for us. We got the bounce of the ball now and again and that made a difference for us.

"It's nice to get out there and play a few minutes and try to make an impact where I can. This team prides itself on numbers one to 23 week in, week out. My job is to come on and be accurate and try to make an impact."

Hansen said Cane's injury didn't look good. "He's in a bit of pain so that's not a good sign when you've got a hammy [injury]," he said.

- NZ Herald

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