There are plenty of solid creatures in the Pumas' pack. A number of big men who won't easily be budged off the ball or cleaned out.

Whatever they possibly lack in clinical edge and finesse, they make up for in sheer physicality and no game against the Pumas in the last six years has come gift-wrapped with a nice little bow on it.

The job doesn't get done against Argentina without some good old fashioned blood and snotters, which is why the game in Nelson is the perfect place for Ardie Savea to start the process of recasting himself as a genuine openside test footballer.

He needn't worry too much about showing off his full portfolio. His athleticism is not in doubt. Everyone gets that he's a souped-up modern version of Michael Jones when it comes to covering the ground.


He's also an outrageously talented ball player to the point where if he had to play in the midfield, he'd possibly not only get by, but actually end up just about earning another crack.

But for all the similarities between Jones and Savea, there is one significant difference.

Jones may have looked like a wing when he had the ball in hand in open space, but he definitely also looked like an openside flanker when he crashed into contact.

Savea, in his fledgling career, hasn't been able to convince in the same way.

The modern game has killed a little of the mystique by requiring a level of conformity on the gladiatorial front and while that may hurt the soul of rugby romantics the world over, it does require those in positions of out and out confrontation to accept the reality of their jobs.

And that very much includes Savea who has been given a clear message from the All Blacks coaches about what they want to see from him.

It's pretty simple too – and that is they need him to have more presence at the tackled ball area. They need to see him shift defenders out the way, drive ball carriers back in the tackle and hold his own for longer when he's scrabbling for turnovers.

Ardie Savea. Photo / Getty
Ardie Savea. Photo / Getty

It's the grunt work upon which all sevens are judged and the reason why Sam Cane has established himself in the jersey the way he has.


Cane can't match Savea for breadth of skill. He's not as quick, not as visionary or creative but for the last three years, he has been considerably more effective.

Since the last World Cup, Cane has upped his weight by almost 10kg and found the explosive power to dominate in the areas that matter.

In the two recent Bledisloe Cup tests, Wallabies star men Michael Hooper and David Pocock were virtually anonymous. The All Black pack can take the credit for that en masse, but Cane deserves to be singled out for the way he subdued the vaunted pair.

Savea hasn't been able to impress at the coalface in the same way since he made his debut in 2016. He's been handy coming off the bench when the game has opened up and there has been less grinding and more running.

But when he's been asked to start and play that traditional openside role of being relentlessly physical and disciplined, he's struggled.

When he was given his first start against the Springboks two years ago, he was skittled too often at the breakdown.

He was willing but not able to shift some of the giant Boks forwards and the game passed him by.

That hasn't been the case with every other test he's started, but there is no question he has struggled to get the All Blacks on the front foot and own the gainline.

The theme has been consistent – that he's not been able to impose himself the way Cane has and it even reached the point last year when Matt Todd leapfrogged Savea.

He has a chance in Nelson, though, to begin the process of remodeling his game. He has a chance to say he's moving towards being the player the All Blacks need him to be whenever he starts.

And everyone should be rooting for him because Savea pointedly only recently extended his contract by 12 months.

It was a decision that said he's given himself a year to get things right in the test arena and if he can't, then he may well look to join brother Julian at Toulon.