AllBlacks forwards could get toughest test in years

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James Mortimer     21 Sep 2012     Getty Images

This is of course of no disrespect to Pumas, Springboks, Wallaby and Irish packs that have played the World Champions in 2012, but the harshest destination the All Blacks have visited this year is in Sydney.

Before that Sir Graham Henry, along with current coach Steve Hansen and current Chiefs assistant coach Wayne Smith, played seven straight tests on home soil (albeit, in the cauldron of a Rugby World Cup!), before that playing the 2011 Tri-Nations decider in Brisbane.

The Pumas and Springboks on home soil will be different beasts, presenting challenges unseen since the French threw all of Paris at the All Blacks at Eden Park in the Rugby World Cup Final.

Twelve of the Argentine forwards play in France, and the sight of Rodrigo Roncero, Patricio Albacete, Julio Farías Cabello and Juan Martín Fernández Lobbe  - all on the mature side of 30 - playing like men possessed will ensure the All Blacks forwards are on high alert.

The Springboks may not be the unblinking giants up front that history has witnessed in numerous chapters, but as always they bring a ferocity in the contact areas that is hard to counter in the Republic.

Their draw to the Pumas overshadowed the fact that an inexperienced South African team defeated Argentina 27-6 in Newlands, and the pack that day paid homage to the Springboks power game despite the fact that over two-thirds of the test caps in recent teams lurks in the backline.

The 21-11 win by the All Blacks in Dunedin was engineered, according to the Springboks, by the taking of precious chances, encapsulated by the tries by Israel Dagg and Aaron Smith.

A win and a ten point margin indicates that the All Blacks forwards were able to do the business, but there was no denying that the Springboks caused the World Champions some rattling moments in the loose.

There was however the continued solid platforms from the set piece, but even the All Blacks reliable scrum and lineout in 2012 will be put to the task in the citadels of the Estadio Ciudad de La Plata and Soccer City.

This will also be the litmus test for the current All Blacks physicality, with the absence of Jerome Kaino and Brad Thorn still to be put to the test, although the former was present when the Springboks won 18-5 in Port Elizabeth in 2011.

However Richie McCaw was absent that day, and his upped workrate indicates the captain taking on board extra roles to ensure that the World Champions pack continues to move forward.

But how his players around him respond on a tough two-test roadtrip will determine if the All Blacks win The Investec Rugby Championship.

And perhaps provide their skipper with the two wins to give him the magic 100 test victory mark - never before achieved in rugby history.