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Pumas can trouble All Blacks, but World Champions are severe critics

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James Mortimer     06 Sep 2013     Getty Images

Defence has been a heavy aspect of the Argentine wave of tacklers that seeks to close down the All Blacks space, a mix of frenzy and structure that has proven in recent years to be awkward for the New Zealanders to overcome.

Much of this has come from the Pumas ability to destruct the breakdown, even if the World Champions quickly discovered this to the peril of the South Americans.

A tough match in Wellington against Argentina was followed by the arrival of the Springboks to Dunedin, and while the All Blacks won 21-11, it was a match that coach Steve Hansen said was an ‘inadequate showing’ with how they cleared away any nuisances at the ruck.

New Zealand sides pride themselves on blowing away rivals forwards to get quick possession, and this ensures the team can implement their favoured trait of playing perfect interchange rugby between forwards and backs.

If legend is true, the moniker All Blacks came from a print title that the team played as if they were ‘all backs’ (suggested to be misspelt), and Hansen also indicated that this was an area that even today’s team strived to maintain the strictest standards.

Even when they posted record scores.

“There's still areas to improve on,” Hansen said after the world’s number one ranked team defeated Argentina 54-15 in La Plata in 2012.

“One of them is the delivery and connection between the forwards and backs. The first two lineouts I think we struggled to do that and that's platforms we didn't have to attack off.

“Once we worked into the game and got our composure and dealt with what was happening to interfere with the calmness and clarity inside their brains we linked up and did score some great tries. To be able to attack like that you've got to have a platform to attack off so the forwards can be very proud.'

While the Pumas may know exactly what is coming from the All Blacks, and have shown some talent in shutting down some might suggest rugby’s premier operators at the ruck, Hansen and his troops are ones to quickly highlight areas they need to lift, and even an unbeaten tournament never stopped the eventual champions from turning the blowtorch on themselves.

“The cleanout was the big area we were disappointed with after the South African test (in Dunedin) and tonight (post La Plata) they were spot on,” he said.

“I thought we played pretty well in that area. There's still parts of our game that we've got to work on. We can pat ourselves on the back and enjoy the moment.”

The All Blacks are their hardest taskmasters, their most ruthless critics, and will be wary of the lessons they learned from the tournament - and the Pumas - last year.