The All Blacks will prepare for one of the great adjustments in Test rugby with words of warning ringing in their ears from Steve Hansen.
The coach was unimpressed with elements of their season-opening 25-16 win over Samoa in Apia, even when taking into consideration the heat, the rustiness of the players and the absence of Highlanders and Hurricanes players involved in the Super Rugby final last weekend.
He is demanding considerable improvement for the opening Rugby Championship Test against Argentina on Friday next week in wintry Christchurch, where a temperature drop of about 25C must be factored in.
Several unnamed players have plenty to prove after Hansen delivered his verdict on how the team struggled to cope with the intensity of the world No.9 ranked Samoans on Wednesday.
“Some guys coped with it and others didn’t, so we got answers there,” he said.
“We’re nowhere near where we need to be. It wasn’t as good a performance as we were hoping for but there were a number of factors.”
More than two-thirds of his team hadn’t played for the previous three weeks, while the draining humidity was something they were never going to be prepared for, given they arrived in Samoa less 48 hours before kick-off.
The challenging nature of the Test was a positive because of the lessons learned and the realisation they have a long way to go in the Rugby Championship.
“There’s no point us panicking. We’ve got a base camp and now we can keep working and keep going up.
“We know we’ve got to go a long way up if we’re going to be really competitive.”
Hansen faces a selection juggle next week, with the 17 players involved in the Super Rugby final becoming available again.
They will arrive in Christchurch on Friday, one day before the Samoan returnees.
Changes are likely but Hansen is giving few clues about how many.
He will farewell the six players who were additions to his original squad: Seta Tamanivalu, Tom Taylor and Ofa Tu’ungafasi, plus three who made their debuts in Apia – George Moala, Brad Weber and Charlie Ngatai.
Another to make his debut, prop Nepo Laulala, remains as injury cover for the injured Charlie Faumuina while halfback Andy Ellis does the same for Tawera Kerr-Barlow.
Kerr-Barlow makes his international return from a long-term knee injury for the Maori All Blacks against Fiji in Suva on Saturday.
Maori captain Ngatai was to join them from Apia.
Hansen was relieved the bruising Samoan Test hadn’t resulted in any major injuries.
Luke Romano had suffered a gruesome facial injury but was cleared of any break by x-rays.
The lock was to undergo a further scan in New Zealand to confirm there was no fine crack to his cheekbone.