There will be no shortage of power and passion when New Zealand defend their unbeaten record in their Rugby Championship third-round clash against Argentina in Wellington today.
The All Blacks have so far beaten Australia twice, despite problems with their decision-making, while Argentina have taken confidence from holding South Africa to a 16-16 draw after a first-round loss.
That draw in Mendoza two weeks ago showed the Pumas would not be easy to beat in their first year in the extended Southern Hemisphere competition.
However, the All Blacks, who have never lost against the Pumas, are taking inspiration from past confrontations against the Argentines, with photos of their matches splashed across the walls of their team room.
With stormy weather forecast, All Blacks captain Richie McCaw said they are relishing the prospect of an intense battle against the formidable Argentine forwards.
“Regardless of whether it’s wet or dry, it’s going to be a battle up front and our boys talked about it, and they’re quite excited if it is wet as it gives them a chance to get stuck in,” he said.
The All Blacks are to try to shut down two key players — captain and backrower Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe and flyhalf Juan Martin Hernandez, McCaw added.
The All Blacks have made six changes, including the promotion of Aaron Cruden to flyhalf after Dan Carter pulled out with a groin strain.
Center Conrad Smith and prop Tony Woodcock return from injury, while lock Brodie Retallick, flanker Victor Vito and wing Julian Savea come in for Sam Whitelock, Liam Messam and Hosea Gear.
Argentina, who have made only two changes with Hernandez and flanker Juan Manuel Leguizamon back from injury, say they are looking for the “perfect” game.
“For us, the most important thing is to go one step ahead of what we did two weeks ago against South Africa,” Lobbe said yesterday.
“We need to be perfect in defense, we need to be perfect in attack. I think the word for tomorrow is to try to be perfect in everything we do,” he added.
Coach Santiago Phelan indicated that with the World Cup-winning All Blacks coach Graham Henry now in the Pumas camp his side is starting to develop the attacking skills that have been lacking in their forward power-game.