New Zealand are planning to confound Argentina’s best efforts in their Rugby Championship clash this weekend and maintain the high tempo that has taken their game to new heights this season.
The world champions will look to extend their latest winning streak to 14 Tests at Hamilton on Saturday having swept Wales in a three-match June series and opened their Rugby Championship campaign with back-to-back wins over Australia.
Argentina have never beaten the All Blacks but have always proved obdurate opponents and arrived in New Zealand on a high after securing only their second victory over South Africa in their last outing.
“We do know that the Argentinians are one team that we often struggle to get really quick ball from,” All Blacks assistant coach Ian Foster told reporters in Hamilton on Wednesday.
“And it’s clearly their objective to slow down everything we do.
“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.”
The last encounter between the two sides – a grim, hard-fought 26-16 victory with which New Zealand opened their World Cup campaign little more than a year ago – was testament to Foster’s analysis.
The All Blacks improved throughout that campaign, however, and the speed of thought and action they have brought to Test rugby this season has been breathtaking at times.
Outside back Ben Smith said it was a fun style to play as well.
“Any team you are involved in, I think you enjoy it when the game is played at speed,” he said.
“Players get a chance to test their skills and that’s a team you want to be part of. You’ve always got to make sure you’re on your game and good to go, you’re looking for opportunities and that’s a big part of our game.”
It being the All Blacks, moving the ball at pace is not a skill restricted only to the backs.
According to Opta statistics, number eight Kieran Read and openside flanker Sam Cane passed the ball four times more frequently than Australia’s supposedly more mobile back row duo of David Pocock and Michael Hooper in the last two Tests.
“As a tight forward it’s awesome to challenge yourself in that area,” said All Blacks lock Sam Whitelock.
“We’re always trying to improve – that is an area we’ve highlighted lately. If we can get growth there we can probably get an advantage.”