It's a difficult business getting a handle on the Pumas, who tend to fluctuate from fairly ordinary to world class.

But the All Blacks are picking they will encounter a Pumas side operating at the latter end of the scale. Argentina have a good World Cup pedigree and have played a smart hand in preparing for this tournament.

They have given little away about their preferred style or personnel, yet have upset the Springboks in the process. Their overall results could paint an element of confusion. They rested many of their European-based players in the early part of the Rugby Championship and were well beaten by New Zealand and Australia.

The next test, they beat the Springboks and beat them well. But it's not confusing for the All Blacks.


They can see that what the Pumas did was give their senior and best players a chance to have some rest after a long, hard Northern Hemisphere season. While they rested, the emerging tier were given a chance and now Argentina have a squad that is relatively fresh and super-hungry.

The freshness is a big deal because fatigue has been Argentina's enemy for too long. Typically, when they play in the Rugby Championship, many of their European-based players are about dead on their feet coming, as they do, straight into brutal combat with hardly any break.

There is a second level of difficulty that comes with that - the rugby in Europe tends to be slower and more physical. That doesn't set the Pumas up to thrive in a faster competition, which is why All Blacks coach Steve Hansen is predicting two things.

Firstly, he believes Argentina will be a different and vastly improved side to the one the All Blacks encountered in July. And secondly, he's certain the new Argentine Super Rugby side are going to fast-track the progress of the Pumas.

"Getting exposed to teams like ourselves, Australia and South Africa in a tournament fashion I think has improved them," said Hansen. "The biggest problem with it, though, is that most of their players are coming out of a Northern Hemisphere season and I don't think coming off a hard season and not having any opportunity to have an off-season or pre-season is tough for them.

"With Super Rugby coming, the people they have signed is just about the Argentinian team, so they are going to be a heck of a strong Super side. And I think that will expose them again to more high quality rugby as a team instead of being scattered all over the world.

"They will improve dramatically because of that. They have already beaten South Africa this season and they have handled their preparation really well. A large group of them have had some time to have a pre-season and I think that helped."

That victory in Durban has been as helpful to the All Blacks as it has the Pumas. What it did was remind New Zealand's players that Argentina are a threat when they have an extended time together to prepare.


Not only are the All Blacks working on the basis the Pumas are going to be punching well above their world ranking, they have open minds as to the style of play they will be facing.

Argentina are renowned for their love of the physical stuff, especially the set-piece, but it is, in fact, the backs where the All Blacks believe the biggest threat lies.

"What we know about Rugby World Cup is that every team will play at a higher level to the one they reached prior. That's a given," said Hansen.