James Mortimer 30.Sep.2013Getty Images
In the years past the All Blacks recorded a series of handsome victories against Argentina, but of late that margin has decreased.
While the World Champions ran riot in La Plata last season, this year the Pumas are continuing to close the gap, with their scrum in particular clearly good enough to take on any of the Southern Hemisphere heavyweights.
“For some time now we've had a lot of respect for Argentine rugby,” Hansen said.
“What we've seen over the last two years coming into this competition against probably three of the top four or five sides in the world (is that) they're getting better.”
Hansen said another area of clear growth was the understanding that such an arduous tournament could not be won with the same team, with the Pumas relying heavily on their age grade stars this season, with Pablo Matera the poster boy for the strength of Pumas junior rugby.
“This year, they have improved immensely from last year,” Hansen said.
“They have understood they can't just play the same team every week. Last year, they may have fallen into the trap of not having enough depth.”
Hansen denied that early replacements were due to the All Blacks casting their attention to the Springboks, with it clear that the physical Pumas made it a match where the lungs often complained.
“This match was not about next week, it was about today, we had little left in the tank,” Hansen said.
“We've got to give Argentina a fair bit of credit, It was a tough game with a lot of running.”