ABs coach Hansen critical of Pumas' tactics
CHRIS BARCLAY IN BUENOS AIRES
The All Blacks face the language barrier for the first time during the Rugby Championship in Spanish-speaking Argentina - though one message wasn't lost in translation yesterday.
As the All Blacks arrived, coach Steve Hansen was invited to hold an inquisition into Los Pumas' style of play and his side's difficulties combating it.
Although the All Blacks can claim their latest trophy by beating Argentina in La Plata this weekend, the manner of their recent victories against South Africa and their current hosts has been unable to lift the expanded Tri-Nations from the doldrums as spoiling, defence-orientated tactics stifle attacking flair.
The last time the sides met in Wellington on September 8, the All Blacks - through committed Argentine defence and their own inefficiencies - were held tryless for more than an hour before pulling away to a 21-5 victory.
And unless the Pumas are willing to change their spots - or the All Blacks finally produce some artistry befitting the home of the tango - another high intensity though low-quality struggle risks unfolding in La Plata on Sunday.
The All Blacks' first visit to South America since 2006 should be a platform to promote the code in a nation obsessed by soccer - as the team discovered yesterday when fans of local club Independiente provided a traffic-slowing sideshow en route to their hotel.
Hansen, however, feared another war of attrition would be waged before their final battle in Soweto against the Springboks.
“Argentina will look to slow it down and make it a scrappy game. If it does get scrappy we'll get what we got in Wellington,” he said.
Hansen criticised the Argentinian forwards for habitually losing their footing at the breakdown and killing the ball as a means of disrupting the All Blacks' momentum.
But Los Pumas can hardly be blamed for playing to their strengths given they are keeping company with the world's top three ranked nations for the first time.
A well-drilled forward pack has also stressed the All Blacks legitimately - South Africa then exerted similar pressure in Dunedin - so Hansen also put his personnel on notice to dominate the forward exchanges and breach Argentina's sliding defence.
“We've got to get quicker ball, we've got to win the collision as the ball carrier and get our cleanout right. We've got to keep the big Argentinian forwards from going off their feet, killing our ball and slowing our ball,” he said.
There has been no shortage of negativity surrounding the All Blacks since their nine-try demolition of Ireland in June - they have scored seven in the four tests since their unanswered 60-point romp in Hamilton - but Hansen tried to accentuate the positive.
“We're not scoring a lot of tries but the tries we are scoring are off set-piece play and no other team in the world's doing that to the same extent at the moment,” he said.
“What we've got to do now is put together the broken play tries - forwards and backs combining - and the opposition aren't allowing us to do that. So far they've been good enough to stop us.”
Daniel Carter's potential return after missing two tests with a calf injury supplies any attack with an edge and Hansen was confident the star first five-eighth would be capable of replacing understudy Aaron Cruden.
Wing Cory Jane acknowledged the disquiet concerning the All Blacks' try-scoring rate but pleaded for patience.
“I've heard people talk about the rugby getting boring. It is a test match and we are playing against the best in the world,” he said.
“We're trying to play a high tempo game, a game that suits us. Hopefully, we'll get it clicking this weekend and maybe a few people will start talking us up and enjoying it.”
- Fairfax Media