Argentina have arrived in New Zealand for their test against the All Blacks in Hamilton next Saturday, and the match-up is a fascinating one for me.

Are we going to see a side who can push the All Blacks - really put them under pressure? Because we didn't see that in the two tests against Australia.

Certainly in the Wales series this new young group of men had to find a way to win under pressure. They were down in one test and level in another before pulling away, and they were good signs that they are capable of getting out of tight situations - avoiding, for want of a better term, choking under pressure.

The Pumas will see this as a great opportunity to gauge where they are at after two games against the Springboks. Their victory last weekend in Salta was good, but they should have won by more. They left a few tries out there.


The Pumas, and the Jaguares in Super Rugby - for all their creativity and raw talent in being able to shift the ball, are sometimes let down by their inability to do the basics.

Their handling often lets them down at crucial times, and a lot of that is not in contact. For me, that's where their growth has to be. I think they have a good understanding of how they want to play. We saw that at the World Cup where they had the All Blacks under pressure at Wembley. But if they are going to kick on and be a force in world rugby then they need to cut those errors out.

One thing I've seen in the All Blacks this year is the ability to punish teams who lose concentration. A lot has been said about the bench and the performance of those individuals late in game, but across the board this team don't seem to have many lulls. When the opposition do the All Blacks tend to punish them.

Argentina must stay switched on for the majority of game. I don't think they can do that for all the game. But if they focus and hold their discipline - I mean penalty discipline and ball discipline, the areas where they often lapse - we could see a good test at Waikato Stadium.

They have some good, experienced players and they won't be daunted by facing the All Blacks.

* Watching more of the Mitre 10 Cup this week has reminded me again that New Zealand's provincial competition must be the envy of every other rugby-playing country in the world. It's very good and the reason why New Zealand rugby has such great depth. We're seeing the new, young talent mixed with players who I guess don't get a lot of time in the limelight in Super Rugby.

Throw the Ranfurly Shield into the mix as well and New Zealand rugby is in a healthy state because the NPC is. I still think a lot of work has to go into club rugby which is struggling and a lot of credit has to go to the volunteers who continue to keep it afloat.

Speaking of the Ranfurly Shield, I remember all of those games that I played in, whether as a challenger or defender, like they were yesterday.

The mystique and history of the Shield means those games are inspirational. A reaffirmation of that for me happened a couple of years ago when I was scheduled on the broadcast of a Counties match at Pukekohe. I remember thinking, 'oh, a provincial game after the hype of a test'. The difference was Counties had won the Ranfurly Shield the week before, so the stadium was packed, with the crowd spilling out the gates. It was a brilliant occasion and that's what the Ranfurly Shield is all about. It's never a regular day at the office.