In scoring a try, making 18 often thunderous tackles, running for 63m and beating five defenders in an extraordinary breakout performance on a beautifully clear Nelson night, Shannon Frizell has laid down the challenge to his Tasman, Highlanders and All Blacks teammate Liam Squire.

It is one which fellow blindside flanker Squire will probably have a chance to respond to on Saturday against the Springboks, a team unlikely to offer as many attacking opportunities to the All Blacks as the Pumas but given the current form of the home side, you can't rule anything out.

Such is the team-first ethos within the All Blacks, and the closeness of most of the players, Squire would likely have been extremely pleased at the 24-year-old Frizell's performance in his second test.

It came at just the right time, too. In not selecting Vaea Fifita for the Rugby Championship squad, the All Blacks selectors have taken a gamble on Frizell and it appears they have hit the jackpot.


"You saw what Shannon is capable of and I've been lucky enough to have been in the same team as him probably his whole professional career with Tasman and the Highlanders," Squire said. "I've seen how he's grown his game and it's awesome to see him implement it in the black jersey again.

"It creates that competitiveness in the No6 jersey which is only healthy for him and I. It's a challenge that's exciting for both of us and anyone in that loose forward trio."

Squire, 27, said he believed Frizell had improved his physicality in the contact areas and that speaks volumes given it comes from someone who has become a defensive enforcer for the All Blacks after 19 tests.

Squire's shoulders are forever primed for an unsuspecting target, or a fully aware one for that matter.

It is the All Blacks attack which has been getting the headlines here and abroad after three bonus point victories in the Rugby Championship, and so it should, but it is their defence which often creates those opportunities to open up the opposition.

While they made mistakes at Trafalgar Park with offloads that went to ground or the opposition, Steve Hansen's men are playing with an enthusiasm and ambition that is very hard to contain. Certainly it looks like a fun game to play and part of the excitement in the squad is how far they have to go.

"I reckon we seem to have this conversation almost every year when we score a few good counter-attacking tries… it re-highlights some of the athletes we have in our back three, I think," said loose forward Sam Cane. "They're really good at exploiting that. As rugby players we love nothing more than defending for five or 10 phases and getting a turnover and punishing teams like that. It's awesome.

"I think when we review our game and look at our phase play stuff we always say 'damn, there was an opportunity there, if only we had put the ball into the space there'. We could count 10 opportunities from the weekend where we could have got the ball into space better. Off our phase play we have heaps of improvement left in us. That's exciting and it's what drives us to work on our skills and get those structures."


For Squire, if selected as expected at Westpac Stadium, a chance to stretch his legs with the ball like his teammate and rival Frizell did last Saturday would be very much appreciated.

"Hopefully if I get the chance on Saturday I get the same sort of pictures that he got in the middle," he said.