Anything is possible in sport — Roger Federer, the graceful and super-gifted tennis technician, lost to some Aussie this week at the US Open.

Before his relatives sear me with some snaky correspondence, the victorious digger was John Millman but the only tennis talent I'd heard about from across the ditch came with the troubled Nick Kyrgios, Thanasi Kokkinakis and Bernard Tomic.

Then Millman scrambled my hope that somehow, Federer could find a way through the searing court temperatures to challenge for another Grand Slam title. It was not to be.

He had no excuses just as Dominic Thiem accepted the same fate after taking Rafael Nadal to the shadow of the same exit door before the Spaniard won the tiebreak fifth set.


That's the sporting landscape the All Blacks have set themselves with their drive to put out their best performance every time they take the field.

If they work hard enough and prepare properly they will win most of their games. It's been that way against Argentina since the countries played the first of their recognised 26 tests in Buenos Aires in 1985.

The sides had a 21-all stalemate in the second test of that series but that's the closest the Pumas have come to a scoreboard victory.

They should have won in 2001 at the River Plate Stadium when the newly minted All Black coach John Mitchell took his squad to Europe then Argentina for a one-off test on the way home.

The All Blacks did not play well and trailed deep into injury time as the boisterous 70,000-crowd ignored Diego Maradona's antics high in the stand and celebrated what they thought would be a famous victory.

However, when a hurried clearing kick was gathered by Andrew Mehrtens, he found fullback Ben Blair who sliced past a tiring defence to send Scott Robertson in for a test-saving touchdown.

The Pumas have rattled the All Blacks' cage a few times since but have never found the sustained formula to find that elusive milestone result. They are coming off a home win against the Springboks which has given them a renewed public confidence they can compete strongly in Nelson tomorrow but walking the talk is a different issue in the glow of battle.

Both sides have trusted their squads and for the All Blacks that means considerable attention on some fresher talent. Like Federer and Thiem, excuses won't wash if things get soggy at Trafalgar Park.


Test matches are supposed to be rugby's premium content and those picked for that work are judged against that criteria. The selectors are looking for a strong response to that elevation, promotions which will have a bearing on the countdown to the next World Cup selection.

Much of the attention will be on five-eighths Richie Mo'unga whose form has been sharp all season for the Crusaders but who has extra issues to deal with in this match sandwiched between the mixed delivery from TJ Perenara and the quiet Ngani Laumape.

Nehe Milner-Skudder has been around for a while but a hideous run of injury has blunted his work, Jack Goodhue still has the test L-plates on while Shannon Frizell and Karl Tu'inukuafe were left-field picks for the initial squad.

Those forwards have been in and around the camp for some time absorbing the training field work, computer and blackboard lessons and what it means to be an All Black.

But this is a step up, a start against a pack who will test them physically and if they get an edge, will believe this is their chance.

More test tyros sit on the All Blacks bench where Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi, Tim Perry and Luke Whitelock will be asked for added value when they are called into action.

Despite the All Black changes and the rousing last result from the Pumas, the home side carries a lopsided favourites tag. It's not a blinkered view.

It's based on form, talents and results and most objective rugby watchers would class them as over-whelming certainties to win with a touch of Federer's usual flair.