All Blacks planning to combat sound barrier
CHRIS BARCLAY IN BUENOS AIRES
Inquisitive All Blacks spent their day off roaming Buenos Aires using sign language to explore the Argentinian capital - and they assume they'll also need hand gestures to make themselves understood when confronting a wall of sound in La Plata this weekend.
While a focus ahead of Sunday's (NZT) Rugby Championship clash with Los Pumas is becoming more authoritative at the breakdown and matching their hosts famed forward pack at the engagement, another set piece is potentially problematic as they plot to clinch the new symbol of southern hemisphere rugby supremacy before continuing on to South Africa.
Relaying lineout calls promise to a challenging exercise if, as expected, a 53,000-strong crowd at Estadio Ciudad de La Plata play to form and create an almighty racket.
Kieran Read might be the captain-in-waiting until Richie McCaw takes a well-earned sabbatical after the All Blacks end of year tour, but his leadership responsibilities initially revolve around the lineout when Keven Mealamu or Andrew Hore have ball in hand on the sideline.
Read, who is on his first tour of South America as an All Black, decides which jumper will be targeted and has at least been background about what to expect when the crowd gets animated.
A plan was formulated when New Zealand played Springboks inside Dunedin's Forsyth Barr Stadium earlier this month and he expects to employ the same strategy to get his message across.
"We had a plan in place for Dunedin. If it gets too noisy then we have to come in (to a huddle) and make a call as a group, we can also get some hand signals going if we need to," the loose forward explained.
Mealamu was suited up in the stands at Velez Sarsfield Stadium the last time the All Blacks visited Argentina in 1986 and had vivid recollections of how the supporters chanted throughout New Zealand's eventual 25-19 victory - making life difficult for Hore and starting hooker Anton Oliver.
"It was an awesome atmosphere and we have to be prepared for that again," said Mealamu, ahead of his first test cap on Argentine soil.
"I think we have an understanding that's what it's going to be like that and as the week builds we're going to look at ways to make sure we're clear on the calling so we've got some good clarity there."
Five-test lock Luke Romano is likely to be a prime target and gained an appreciation of what to expect when watching the Primera division football game between River Plate and Racing Club on television a day after the All Blacks arrived.
"It was only 12 minutes in and there was a riot in the stands, security guards were getting bashed up. If it only takes them 12 minutes to get into that sort of frenzy it's going to be interesting," he said.
Romano was first exposed to the passion associated with Los Pumas rugby at Westpac Stadium on September 8 and is anticipating an even tougher initiation presuming he is selected to confront them in their domian."I think what makes them tough is they're not big, big men like the South Africans but they hit just as hard. There were a few times where I ended up on my back," he said.
"I'm still finding my feet at this level and not having played them before .... you're not too sure how they defend or what sort of techniques they like to employ so I'm a lot better off going into this match."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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