Strap yourself in. The next two weeks will reveal much about who this All Blacks team really is.

Prior to the loss in Wellington, many of us bemoaned the diminishing quality of the Rugby Championship.

The All Blacks were untouchable, or so it seemed.

One defeat does not alter the entire complexion of test rugby but the Springboks brought a healthy dose of reality, and valuable perspective about staying grounded.


Even had Damian McKenzie made that final pass for the match-winning try, many questions, internal and external, would remain about the All Blacks' tactical approach in the capital.

As it was, the All Blacks landed in familiar Buenos Aires this week with Steve Hansen's game management criticism ringing in their ears. And, no doubt, motivation set on immediately righting those wrongs.

They will also be well aware, however, the Pumas and Boks, in-front of their equally passionate people, present much tougher challenges than recent years may suggest.

This two-leg trip is not the jaunt the All Blacks have made it seem at times.

The Pumas now appear a team on the rise, buoyed by their win over the Wallabies in Perth and, more holistically, refreshed and refocused with the change in direction Mario Ledesma has inspired.

While not the finished product by any stretch, they are a genuine threat. Look no further than the form of playmaker Nicolas Sanchez.

Having already pulled off a convincing win over the Boks in Mendoza, belief must be firming they can knock off the All Blacks for the first time, or at least give them a proper scare.

The challenge, as always with the Pumas, is to sustain efforts; not fade over the final quarter when emotion drains. Theirs is the Latin temperament, after all.


Many of this All Blacks squad, those accustomed to Buenos Aires, will appreciate the need to start well to quell the feverish atmosphere that lifts locals the longer they stay in the fight.

But with captain Kieran Read, Brodie Retallick, Liam Squire and Joe Moody all absent from the pack this week, pressure falls on other drivers to step up and lead.

It promises to be a big occasion for some newer additions – Shannon Frizell, the recalled Vaea Fifita, Karl Tu'inukuafe and even the excellent Jack Goodhue if he gets another crack in the midfield with Sonny Bill Williams due back.

A different form of pressure comes following a loss.

The potentially inexperienced bench, in comparison to previous years, must also shoulder a large degree of responsibility for closing out this match.

It will not be an easy ride.

The All Blacks will be keen to avoid conceding two second half yellow cards, as they did in the last two tests in Argentina, which forced them to stoically defend for long periods.

Any such sniff of momentum and the Pumas can be difficult to contain.

Next week there is no respite, either.

Dragging their battered bodies through another long-haul journey to Johannesburg, the All Blacks will attempt to shake off fatigue for another huge test in Pretoria.

Loftus Versfeld, with its towering stands and braais surrounding the stadium, is no place for the faint-hearted.

The Boks, still grappling with transformation challenges and their crippling overseas player drain, have been all kinds of inconsistent in recent years.

But how quickly we forget the All Blacks needed a late Lima Sopoaga penalty, following Damian de Allende's red card for a sloppy challenge, to cling on for a 25-24 victory in Cape Town last year.

Just as Ledesma has the Pumas connected so, too, is Rassie Erasmus slowly progressing the Boks.

Erasmus no longer has his rather bizarre 'sack the coach' card in his back pocket but the Boks are 3-1 under his guidance at home, dropping only the dead rubber to England in June.

For the All Blacks, expectations never change. No matter the circumstances we demand they win every test – and usually win them well, too.

A swift response to rare defeats has become the norm.

This time around, though, there is perhaps more nagging doubt due to the improving state of the opposition.

Maybe with this in mind Hansen fired a shot across the bow of senior leaders. He will now expect a mental edge in training to forecast the necessary reaction.

With the Bledisloe Cup safely locked away again, and the Japanese test expected to give fringe players chances, this two-week venture is the All Blacks' most important before arriving in London in November.

Stripping back the layers previously, their core characteristics have prevailed.

No test is ever the same. But this side must now answer those same, probing questions.

How they emerge will be revealing.