Can the All Blacks purple patch continue?

TAINE RANDELL
Last updated 11:00 23/09/2012
Steve Hansen
CHRIS SKELTON/FAIRFAX NZ
HIGH STANDARD: The All Blacks are attempting to play a high tempo game under new coach Steve Hansen.

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OPINION: New Zealand should appreciate that the All Blacks are in a real purple patch at the moment.

Their run of 14 consecutive test wins has them eyeing the world record of 18 set by Lithuania, of all teams, and it would be fitting to have New Zealand earn that milestone given our standing in the game.

If the All Blacks can get through their away Rugby Championship assignments against Argentina and South Africa over the next couple of weeks, then you'd back them to claim that record on their end of year tour.

I rate this current team up there with the best New Zealand sides of the modern era - the 1987-89 team, the 1996-97 team and the 2005-06 side.

Having won the World Cup, they have set themselves very high goals under new coach Steve Hansen. They are trying to play an incredibly high-tempo game and are looking for that perfect performance.

But we should remember those sort of games come around only once every decade or so. I think back to the day the 1996 All Blacks blew away the Wallabies at Athletic Park or when the 2006 side blitzed the French with seven tries in Lyon.

You have to acknowledge that the All Blacks are playing the next best teams in the world in the Wallabies and the Boks and it won't be long before the Pumas are regarded that way too. I'd say within the next two years they could be ranked in the top four.

The Pumas were essentially the last of the amateur teams and their achievements over the last five years, including the last two World Cups, have been incredible.

As they get more exposed to this consistent level of test play and make increasing use of their top professionals they are going to get better and better.

They have already proved their worth in their debut season and I'd suggest the All Blacks' unbeaten record against Argentina will come under real threat in the not-too-distant future.

I'm not sure that will happen next weekend, though the team won't need reminding of the dangers of playing in Argentina. I just think the Pumas have a little too much respect for the All Blacks at the moment.

And playing in Buenos Aires rather than provincial Argentina will help Richie McCaw's men. Some of the smaller grounds can have a real feral element to them - I can still visualise film of previous All Blacks being spat at by Pumas' fans behind caged fencing.

The Rugby Championship has answered a few questions other than just the ability of the All Blacks to kick on from their World Cup success under a new coaching team or the relative worth of the Pumas.

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We knew Robbie Deans was under enough pressure to make him chopped liver if he couldn't squeeze something out of this tournament.

After failing to win the Bledisloe Cup, his team have squeaked in against the Boks and Pumas in Australia. They still know how to win tight games as they showed against Wales.

With their injuries, the Wallabies look vulnerable to losing one or possibly both games on the road. But you wouldn't put it past them winning each of them because, with their backs to the wall, they have shown why they are No 2 behind the All Blacks.

As for the Boks, they've been widely written off. New coach Heyneke Meyer's opening record of two wins, two draws and two losses is poor by their standards and his conservative game plan has left him open to criticism.

But the Springboks still hold the best record of any team against the All Blacks and they are a completely different beast playing in South Africa. I sense we're in for a couple of interesting weekends watching from afar.

- Taine Randell is a former All Blacks captain

- Fairfax Media

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