Limitoo News

All Blacks: Off the mark in style but the Boks lie in wait

Rieko Ioane of New Zealand runs with the ball in the Rugby Championship match against Argentina in Mendoza.
Rieko Ioane of New Zealand runs with the ball in the Rugby championship match against Argentina in Mendoza. Photo: gaspafotos /

It was all set up to be in an ambush in the stadium named after Argentina's claims to the Falkland Islands, but in the end it went about as well as the 1982 conflict for the home side.

The test match that finished 42-12 at Estadio Malvinas Argentinas in Mendoza was an impressive statement out of the blocks from the All Blacks, especially considering the game was essentially won within the first 10 minutes. While it's certainly not going to be this straightforward for the rest of the season, it was about as good a start as New Zealanders could have hoped for in the lead up to the World Cup.

Yes, the Pumas were probably undercooked after flying in their side from Europe. They will be better in a week's time when they take on the Wallabies, but probably the most pleasing thing about the All Blacks is that they didn't have that same problem despite playing their first test of the year as well.

Other things to like? The scrum was very dominant and set a really good platform for the backs to work with. While the attack was clicking in the early stages, so was the defence - other than an early scare after a charge down, the Pumas didn't get a look into the 22 until well into the second half. Scott Barrett in particular was very effective, putting aside a few jitters about the depth at lock.

That's also because Josh Lord looked right at home next to him. There will be bigger challenges to come for the two-metre tall 22-year-old, but after less than two games of rugby in the past year due to injury, it was an impressive display.

But perhaps the biggest takeaway from this win is a question rather than an answer. Damian McKenzie did everything he was picked to do, aside from a couple of goal kicking issues. Where does that leave him in the grand scheme of things? It was tempting to think that he was simply being given game time before Richie Mo'unga takes over next weekend against the Springboks, but such an assured display now makes one wonder whether the depth chart has McKenzie on top.

So where does that leave Beauden Barrett? He looked at home at fullback and chimed in with a well taken try, so maybe the 10-15 axis that the All Blacks have been searching for might benefit with McKenzie at first receiver.

Debutant Emoni Narawa didn't look out of place as well, dotting down late in a messy second half that can be excused due to the fact that the result had been settled long before then.

Really though, the hard work starts next weekend at Mt Smart Stadium. The Springboks lie in wait, with half their team already in Auckland and the other half having handed the Wallabies a hiding last night. If the All Blacks were scary then the Boks were terrifying, putting Eddie Jones' men to the sword and definitely stripping a fair degree of confidence off them before the Bledisloe Cup tests.

The Wallabies went in with Jones bemoaning the fact that the Boks had put out an understrength side, a claim that blew up in his face badly post-match as he stared down the barrel of a 43-12 loss. Like the Pumas they will get better - at least you'd hope so - but Jones needs to come up with something better than headline-grabbing remarks if they are to have any chance later in the year.

It sets up an intriguing clash next Saturday night. We've been starved of watching the South Africans since they left Super Rugby, so there is an air of unknown about their players.

One thing is for sure though: it shapes as a much tougher battle for the All Blacks than the one they faced in Mendoza.