Happy as I was to see the All Blacks avenge their rugby test loss with a reassuring 38-0 victory at Newcastle, I was confounded by the Pumas decision to make two-third team changes.
It was sheer stupidity and the second-stringers were thrashed in every phase of the game except their courageous defence.
That also finally cracked as the All Blacks reserves lifted the tempo when scoring 21 points over the final 15 minutes, four of those minutes in extra time.
Two of those tries were scored in two minutes by remarkable right wing Will Jordan, Super Rugby Aoteroa’s top try-scorer and a man pushing for a starting spot next year at either fullback or wing.
Jordan is making breaks and scoring tries like Beauden Barrett did before he lost his magic touch. Barrett’s not a spent force but he’s no longer the elusive speedster he was.
Others to make a big impression were hard-nosed skipper Sam Cane, tighthead prop Nepo Laulala who destroyed the Pumas scrum, tigerish Ardie Savea and dynamic left wing Caleb Clarke whose hunger for work matched his ability to break through tackles.
Most pleasing of all was the work rate of blindside flanker Akira Ioane whose strong runs and fierce tackling should see him cement his spot ahead of Shannon Frizell who was preferred in earlier games.
Like brother Rieko, Akira is athletically blessed who, alongside Savea, rates as the best attacking forward in the country. But whereas he was lazy he has become a workaholic who bends his back and does the hard yards thanks to the encouragement of forward coaches Tom Coventry (Blues) and John Plumtree (All Blacks).
Nothing in sport is more satisfying than to see a gifted athlete lift him or herself off the deck and realise their potential. May Ioane continue to do so.
Veteran lock Sam Whitelock rarely gets the praise he deserves as a lineout ace and relentless tackler and found a lively partner in Scott Barrett.
The win was a huge relief to honest head coach Ian Foster whose record stands at three wins, two losses and a draw which won’t impress the thousands of fans who cry out for Scott Robertson’s promotion.
However, while the current team falls well short of that which Steve Hansen mentored for so long, it has produced some exciting new faces in Clarke, Jordan and Akira Ioane.
Meanwhile Howick-Pakuranga cricketer Glenn Phillips’ magnificent 108 off 51 in the second ODI against the West Indies at Mount Maunganui justified the selectors decision to give him and Devon Conway their chance after Kane Williamson was saved for the tests alongside swing bowler Trent Boult.
His 184-run partnership with the exciting Conway (65 not out) was a T20 world record for the third wicket and he scored the fastest (46-ball) century by a New Zealander ahead of Brendon McCullum (two), Martin Guptill (two) and Colin Munro (three).
Just as in the first T20 at Eden Park where speedster Lachie Lachlan managed a five-wicket haul, Phillips’ kneecap was dislocated before being put back into place.
Although living in New Zealand since he was five, he joins BJ Watling, Colin Munro, Neil Wagner and now Conway as one of five South African-born cricketers who have done the Black Caps proud.
- Ivan Agnew is an award-winning sports writer