The All Blacks need both brains and brawn if they are to avenge their 15-25 historic first rugby test loss to Argentina in Australia.
Brains because the selectors’ best team failed to fire against the fiery Pumas’ rush defence which rattled the All Blacks.
Brawn because tighthead prop Tyrel Lomax and a few others failed to match the Pumas’ forward power in a test in which veteran first-five Nicolas Sanchez scored all their points with a converted try and six penalty goals.
Just to prove it was no fluke, he did the same with five successful penalties in Argentina’s 15-all draw against the Wallabies in Newcastle last weekend. That is something the All Blacks will need to watch out for after losing their discipline in recent matches.
The three-week suspension to tighthead prop Ofa Tu’ungafasi has hurt and Nepo Laulala is likely to fill the breach this Saturday when a win should secure the All Blacks the Tri-Nations championships given their far superior points differential.
However that is not a given when one considers the tremendous confidence the Pumas gained from their historic win against what was supposed to be the All Blacks’ best team. But with Patrick Tuipulotu and Shannon Frizell failing to fire in that game they could be replaced by Scott Barrett and Akira Ioane this week.
Ioane, in particular, would add attacking thrust to a side badly in need of it, just as No 8 Hoskins Sotutu did when he came off the bench late in the first encounter.
Hopefully Aaron Smith and Richie Mo’unga will be retained in the halves despite the temptation to put Beauden Barrett in the No 10 jersey and move brother Jordie from the right wing to fullback.
Midfielders Anton Lienert-Brown and Jack Goodhue are good all-round players who make few mistakes. Unfortunately, they are too similar and lack the pace and try-scoring knack of the occasionally erratic Rieko Ioane to burst through gaps and score.
Exciting left wing rookie Caleb Ralph deserves to retain his place and I prefer Sevu Reece’s attack on the right wing to that of versatile Jordie Barrett.
Meanwhile, it’s disappointing to have noted the strong fans reaction condemning Sam Cane for saying some of them don’t know as much about rugby as they think they do. The truth is that while we study it closely, most of us don’t.
The problem accelerates when we allow our emotions to clog our brain.
Veteran commentator Keith Quinn’s comment about crying sportsmen not being as tough as they were in the old days also brought a tirade of criticism.
Keith’s a good bloke and quickly withdrew his remarks which were probably made tongue-in-cheek.
As Sir John Kirwan points out, it’s okay and actually healthy for big boys to cry and ease depression.
Today there is genuine concern about the amount of bullying that goes on at schools.
When I went to school in the 1940s and 50s, seldom were the weaker children bullied. There were fights between the so-called tougher boys but the weaker ones were left alone.
Meanwhile we await the selection of the All Blacks this week with avid interest in the knowledge they must lift their standard against strong and determined foes who fully deserve their respect.
- Ivan Agnew is an award-winning sports writer