Argentina’s victory over South Africa’s Springboks and how close they came to beating them in Nelspruit has assured that the All Blacks will not be taking them lightly.
All Blacks assistant coach Ian Foster says that New Zealand rugby has a growing respect for Argentina’s game and their ability to mixt things up in a match.
Foster said that playing Argentina at least twice a year – including a home and away – since 2012 has led to a greater awareness of the Pumas game and their World Cup match last year was another mine of information.
However Foster said that while it was a benefit to having information on their opposition it is important to use it in the right way.
“We know them pretty well but as we’ve seen in the last few weeks they were 10 minutes away from beating South Africa over there, they beat them at home and they are a team that has probably grown a lot in confidence and when they grow in confidence their game gets more expansive and more challenging,” he said on the All Blacks site.
“We’ve got to stop looking at them as a team that has got potential and not quite there, but now they’ve beaten just about everyone, probably just not us and I’m pretty sure we’re on their radar so we’re fully aware of that,” he said.
“We do know that the Argentinians are one team that we often struggle to get quick ball from and it’s clearly their objective to slow down everything we do and when we’ve really struggled with them in the past is moving their big bodies and their intention to slow everything down.
“So we’ve got to make sure we get that tempo going and that we can play our game because otherwise it becomes a real bun fight
Foster described the selection process for the Test as a balancing act between wanting to keep growing the game and what the best group of players is to achieve that. It comes down to continuity or a little bit of freshness.
Being at home, and having a fit squad meant it was a good chance to cement the way the team is playing. Continuity was probably the best way to achieve that but Foster said within that there was always the chance for a couple of tweaks.
Foster said the way the side was coming together in the wake of the loss of so much experience last year was an ongoing process but the manner in which it was being achieved was a credit to those players no longer involved who had done so much to enhance the culture they left behind.
There was also credit due to the leadership group headed by Kieran Read and Ben Smith because they were leading in their own style which suited the group of players involved. And while it was too early to make a judgment on how the team was doing, that was something for the end of the season, Foster felt the signs so far were positive.
He described much of the critical comment regarding the alleged favouritism towards the All Blacks from overseas critics as nothing new and white noise that couldn’t distract the side.
“We’ve just got to keep doing what we’re doing and we’ve just got to make sure that we play hard, we play fair and focus on ourselves and our performance and not get distracted and feel like we’ve got to be too careful somewhere or worry about what other people are saying.
“We’re here because we want to live up to our own standards and expectations. We don’t expect to be treated any differently so we don’t expect people to look at us too harshly and we just expect us to be looked at the way everyone else is looked at. Overall it hasn’t changed anything,” he said.