WELLINGTON (Reuters) - You do not get to be the most successful side in your sport by underestimating your opponents and All Blacks captain Kieran Read duly sounded a note of caution about the threat Argentina present on the eve of their Rugby Championship clash.
Argentina have never beaten the All Blacks in 24 attempts and arrived in New Plymouth for Saturday’s test on the back of home-and-away losses to the Springboks.
Languishing below Fiji at number 10 in the world rankings, the Pumas have changed almost half their team for their third Rugby Championship encounter but still Read sees only strengths.
“They’re not just a one dimensional side now, they’ve got threats across the park,” he told reporters in the provincial North Island city on Friday.
”Probably, their ball carriers in the loose forwards are among the best in the world and their backs on their day are pretty dangerous on the counter-attack. Alongside that is a scrum and a maul.
“We’ve just got to adapt to what they bring. A really dangerous opponent for us tomorrow.”
The All Blacks have put in some patchy performances by their own very high standards, losing and drawing tests against the British and Irish Lions and given a bit of a scare by Australia in their last outing in Dunedin.
Even when they ran in eight tries in the first 48 minutes of their 54-34 win over Australia in Sydney, they failed to score for the rest of the match and shipped four tries.
For Read, improving on those performances is what the challenge of being an All Black is all about.
“The important thing is you put it on yourself and as a team and you try and get better every week,” he said.
“We’ve trained really well so it’s just about turning up. We’ve got a bunch of men who are pretty excited about what the Argies present.”
New Zealand coach Steve Hansen, in a sign that he is perhaps less impressed by the threat presented by the Pumas, has experimented with his line-up and given a fresh look to his back row.
Ardie Savea was handed a rare start ahead of Sam Cane at openside and Vaea Fifita will earn his second cap in his first start in the number six shirt.
While Hansen described Fifita as a “beast” who will “put the fear of God” into the Pumas if all goes well, Read painted a more cerebral picture of the hulking flanker.
“It’s been awesome to see Vaea step into a starting role this week,” he said.
“He’s a pretty quiet guy but really energetic and knowledgeable about the game. He’s asking me plenty of questions and understands the game really well, so he’s ready to go.”
Reporting by Nick Mulvenney in Sydney,; Editing by Greg Stutchbury