A little over four months ago Mario Ledesma came to Eden Park with his muscular Jaguares team and achieved a breakthrough victory against the Blues before charming the assembled media with his observations and his fears about his players' playoff mentality.

As it turned out, the Jaguares did make the playoffs for the first time, only to lose 40-23 to the Lions (the eventual grand finalists) in Johannesburg in their quarter-final, but now Ledesma, the bald former front rower with a wicked sense of humour, is back in New Zealand with the Pumas, effectively the Jaguares in disguise.

The task that he and his men face in Nelson on Saturday against the All Blacks is big but, bolstered by their form in Super Rugby this year and the run the Jaguares went on – seven consecutive victories including wins over the Blues in Auckland, and, probably more impressively, the Chiefs at Waikato Stadium – there will be confidence among them that they can create history at Trafalgar Park.

The Argentines have developed more subtlety in the outside channels – as evidenced by their recent victory over South Africa in Mendoza - and are good defenders, but their main asset is their pack and in particular their set piece and that is the area where the All Blacks are expecting to face their biggest challenge.


"They take real pride in their set piece," prop Owen Franks said today. "You saw against Africa they kept the ball in their scrum and they had ascendency.

"The thing about the Pumas is you can never underestimate them. Back in 2012 or the year before their scrum went to another level and I probably didn't give them the respect they deserved and I paid for it.

"It's a big challenge."

For the All Blacks the improved Pumas will provide a yardstick at least after two demolition jobs against the Wallabies in Sydney and Auckland. Michael Cheika's men have slipped and they will be tested by the Springboks in Brisbane on Saturday, but how far?

And by how much have Argentina improved?

There is little doubt the Pumas will stake it all on their scrum – far more than the Australians did – and their front-on defence is also likely to be better. But their lineout, another area of improvement, will also provide the All Blacks with a good gauge as to where they are at.

"They're obviously big men," lock Brodie Retallick said. "In the past we've backed our speed to get on top of them but seeing them in the first couple of rounds, they've become very explosive and they're chucking their jumpers outrageously high in the air. They've obviously put a lot of work into that, especially defensively, trying to cut off ball.

"[Lineouts] are like running a race, the fastest person wins. If you're the first off the ground with a good lift then 99 per cent of the time you're going to get to the top before they do. That's certainly the philosophy we take to it."


Retallick added: "They showed great determination in their defence and their scramble defence to shut South Africa down when they made line breaks and that shows they're a team who want to work for each other."

Nelson resident and former All Blacks prop Wyatt Crockett is said to have been texting his mates in the team about Nelson's best coffee shops and eateries as they prepare for New Zealand's first test in the city and, as coach Steve Hansen prepares to shuffle his side and provide game time to those in need of it, all will be looking forward to getting their teeth into a big opportunity before another sizeable test in Wellington against the Springboks a week later.