The All Blacks historic Rugby Championship test in Argentina has already proved an eye-opening alternative to their usual southern hemisphere destinations as a raucous assembly of Club Atletico Independiente fans chanted and let off fireworks outside a Buenos Aires hotel.
Some All Blacks assumed the cacophony of sound represented their welcome to the capital as traffic was impeded but their accommodation was a short distance away, where the reception was muted in comparison.
A wedding reception was instead the focal point as the players made a low-key arrival after their charter flight from Auckland.
Cory Jane is among the majority of 28 squad members who had never experienced an Argentinian's passion for sport first hand and was braced for a fiery initiation when Los Pumas host the All Blacks in La Plata next Sunday (NZT).
"I thought it was our hotel actually. I thought 'Yeah, this is pretty cool'," Jane said.
Instead the Independiente fans were gearing up tonight's Primera division football clash against fellow strugglers All Boys.
The 36-test wing, who adds Buenos Aires to a list of exotic locales including Hong Kong, Tokyo, Marseille and Milan, said the first-timers had been warned what to expect next weekend from players who were involved in the All Blacks last away game in Argentina six years ago.
Then a relatively inexperienced line-up captained by Jerry Collins trailed at halftime at Ferrocaril Oeste and then held on grimly to a 25-19 lead in dying stages while Leon MacDonald languished in the sin bin.
"A few of the guys who have been here in the past have said it's a tough place to play, we'll have our work cut out but it'll be good," said Jane, who recognised the importance of silencing the masses.
"They play on passion so we have to try and quieten them down as much as we can. If they get their heads up it's going to be a tough day."
Dan Carter, Piri Weepu and Tony Woodcock were in the starting side in 2006 while Andrew Hore and Ma'a Nonu were on the bench; regular captain Richie McCaw watched the one-off test from the stands.
All Blacks head coach Steve Hansen was also spectating in his capacity as Graham Henry's assistant that night so was acutely aware of the difficulties Argentina posed on their own soil.
"I understand what we're going to walk into. There's a lot of passion and excitement about sport over here, particularly soccer and rugby's not far behind it.
"They'll grow and arm and a leg, we'll need to grow one too."
Hansen was hopeful Dan Carter would embody that necessary improvement presuming the playmaking maestro's fragile calf survives training, which gets underway Tuesday (NZT).
"DC's come through the week reasonably good and he sounds confident. As long as he doesn't have any setbacks he should be fine," said Hansen, who included Beauden Barrett as cover in a tour party that proceeds to Johannesburg for the Championship finale in Soweto on October 7 (NZT).
Some team members recovered from their journey in the hotel pool while the squad will stretch their legs tomorrow when familiarising themselves with their temporary neighbourhood.
However, sightseeing will be kept to a minimum given the Championship trophy can be added to the New Zealand Rugby Union's trophy collection with a game to spare should the All Blacks extend their current winning sequence to 15 tests.
Jane said while it was exciting to be in a new foreign environment Buenos Aires affinity with tango and steaks was hardly a priority - although the meat lover was salivating at the prospect of his first bife de costilla (t-bone).
"I love steak and I've heard they've got some mean ones over here so I can't wait."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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