Patrick McKendry is a rugby writer for the Herald.

Rugby: Another reshuffle likely for All Blacks

Ardie Savea had another strong game for the All Blacks. Photo / Getty
Ardie Savea had another strong game for the All Blacks. Photo / Getty

Another comprehensive bonus point victory for the All Blacks - their fifth in as many Rugby Championship tests - is likely to lead to another selection reshuffle.

As a brilliant start against the Pumas at the Estadio Jose Amalfitani gave way to a turgid and forgettable second half, Steve Hansen and company will have plenty to ponder, including how and when to incorporate the fit-again Jerome Kaino, Waisake Naholo and George Moala and whether they will be ready for next Sunday's test against the Springboks in Durban. Indications are they will be.

The fact that Anton Lienert-Brown looked so good at centre after making his debut at second-five against the Wallabies in Wellington in August will also provide Hansen with food for thought. Does Malakai Fekitoa come back at Kings Park or will he sit out another week?

Excellent too, were forwards Liam Squire and Patrick Tuipulotu and halfback TJ Perenara, all of whom made the most of their opportunities.

Questions, however, remain about how the All Blacks could have better dealt with the pressure the Argentines put them under in the second half, a period in which they lost Joe Moody and Squire to the sinbin, referee Jaco Peyper kept up a monotonous routine on his whistle as the visitors struggled to get out of their own territory.

"We played some pretty sublime rugby to score [four] tries in the first half," Hansen said. "I think they [Pumas] would have been disappointed with that first half. They've come out pretty determined in the second and we've had to work hard."

Flanker Ardie Savea said: "We were down in our 22m area for quite a while there in the second half. Us boys did a pretty good job of handling that, but we can't afford to give away that many penalties in the future so we'll have a look at that."

The All Blacks conceded 12 penalties to Argentina's five, and while some were spurious, such as the penalty handed out to Tuipulotu for an apparently dangerous tackle on Nicolas Sanchez, the constant offsides were an issue.

On the positive side, the All Blacks virtually had the game won at halftime, halfback Perenara scoring a brilliant length-of-the-field team try at the break to put them out 29-3.

Some of the handling and movement was brilliant, and few were better than 21-year-old Lienert-Brown. "LB is just growing all the time," Hansen said. "One thing he has got is a beautiful offloading and passing game. We saw a lot of that tonight. As he gets older and plays more rugby I think that will be one of his trademarks."

The Chiefs' player's ability to play either midfield position equally well is a huge advantage and he appears set to be on the scene for a long time. "It's good to be able to play both," he said afterwards. "Fozzie [assistant coach Ian Foster] said if you can make your mark in both positions it helps you with selections so that's something I tried to do tonight."

This was the All Blacks' 16th consecutive test victory. They are closing in on the world record of 18, and the Pumas' second-half revival could be helpful in the maintaining of standards as Hansen's men eye the Boks next weekend and then the Wallabies at Eden Park in three weeks.

Savea, strong again in the No7 jersey, said: "You always have to be on edge to perform well. The boys are always on edge and keeping each other honest."

- NZ Herald

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