It's time to stop the bumbling and play top rugby
OPINION: This winning ugly lark is beginning to grate.
Wallabies rugby coach Robbie Deans would take the All Blacks' recent form in a heartbeat, particularly with all its accompanying success.
But we're a bit more demanding of our world champions and even new coach Steve Hansen admits, it's time to start producing some consistency in the team's performances.
It's hard to argue against success. Since losing to Australia in Brisbane last August, the All Blacks have now won 13 consecutive tests, including last year's Rugby World Cup title. And in case you were wondering, Lithuania holds the record with 18, one more than both the All Blacks and Springboks.
Victory over the Springboks in Dunedin on Saturday will consolidate the All Blacks' claims to this year's Investec Rugby Championship crown. But please, spare us the lingering eyesore of spilled passes and lost possession and restore some continuity and cohesion.
It's time to start fulfilling some of the promise.
There's still plenty to like about this new All Blacks side and Argentina's inclusion in the expanded four-team competition should, eventually, help bring the best out in what could become a truly formidable All Blacks unit.
The Pumas' abrasive, physical approach and scrummaging nous have already reminded some of our younger players that you don't get to face an under-performing mob of Irishmen every week.
Halfback Aaron Smith came under some genuine pressure for the first time last Saturday, while even his Manawatu team-mate, Aaron Cruden, copped a bit of stick, most pertinently from Hansen, for not adapting to what was unfolding in front of him.
The conditions in Wellington might have sucked, but so did much of the All Blacks' execution as a rugged bunch of South Americans continued to justify their existence against the perceived heavyweights of world rugby.
For all their hiccups, the All Blacks will always remain the benchmark by which other teams are measured and you know that when things finally click, no-one will be able to live with them.
Liam Messam is now maturing into a genuine international loose forward and young lock Luke Romano has the attitude and physical presence that should see him remain part of All Blacks teams for many years to come.
But even he got sat on his butt at one stage by some aggressive Pumas defence - another timely reminder of the exacting, ruthless nature of international rugby.
Smith and Cruden are class acts and they'll rebound from Wellington, with Cruden in particular anxious to atone in Dunedin.
Both simply need more big match experience which, considering all the vitriole surrounding his selection, Piri Weepu exemplified with a measured second half performance off the bench.
La Plata on September 30 will provide another acid test.
- © Fairfax NZ News