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

World record at stake but All Blacks focus on perfect performance

Forget, for the moment, the potential for the All Blacks to equal the world record for consecutive test victories should they beat the Springboks in Durban on Sunday. They would settle for a complete 80-minute performance.

The bizarre 36-17 test win over Argentina in Buenos Aires would have given Steve Hansen's men plenty to think about during their 23 hours of travelling to South Africa, including their discipline issues in the second half and how they could have better dealt with the pressure the Pumas exerted after a scintillating first 45 minutes from the All Blacks.

It resulted in yet another bonus point victory - their fifth in five Rugby Championship tests - but the finish would have disappointed Hansen and his fellow coaches despite the multiple selection changes and bright start.

The victory was almost a mirror opposite of the All Blacks' 57-22 win over the Pumas in Hamilton three weeks ago, when the home side finished well over the top of the Argentines in the final quarter.

In between times the All Blacks put in a solid performance to beat the Boks 41-13 in Christchurch but they probably have yet to get back to the heights of their first test of the Championship - their six-try 42-8 humiliation of Australia in Sydney. A week later they beat the Wallabies 21-9 in Wellington.

Their quest for perfection means there will be plenty of work to do before their test at Kings Park in the coastal city, a respite from the high altitude of Ellis Park in Johannesburg where they have often played the Boks recently.

"We probably haven't put a complete 80 minutes on," lock Brodie Retallick said on arrival.

"At times it's been a real arm wrestle and sometimes, like at the weekend, we've let it slip and felt it, so it's fair to say we're still aiming to dominate for a full 80 and that's a challenge in itself."

Loose forward Jerome Kaino was waiting for the All Blacks on arrival after he missed the Pumas test due to a shoulder injury he picked up against the Boks at AMI Stadium just over a fortnight ago.

He will come into the selection mix, as will wing Waisake Naholo, who is likely to be back from a hamstring injury, but it's difficult to see the selectors rushing midfielder George Moala back into the starting line-up.

With Ryan Crotty and 21-year-old Anton Lienert-Brown proving such a compelling mix at the Estadio Jose Amalfitani, it would surprise to see Moala disrupt that, especially with regular centre Malakai Fekitoa waiting for another opportunity.

The world champion All Blacks will get to 17 victories should they prevail against a resurgent Boks team who beat the Wallabies 18-10 in Pretoria, and while they are usually reluctant to talk in detail about setting records, fullback Ben Smith - who could make way for Israel Dagg in the No15 jersey, allowing Naholo to start on the right wing - was quick to acknowledge that it was a motivating factor.

"Yeah it is," he said. "I suppose when you're older it will be great to look back and say you were part of it. This weekend it will be 17 wins which will equal the record. Doing this week right is where it starts."

- NZ Herald

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