Rugby Championship

All Blacks not underestimating Pumas

2017-09-26 09:52
TJ Perenara (Gallo Images)

Cape Town - Without some of their most experienced players for Saturday's Test against Argentina, the All Blacks were keen to switch into preparation mode as quickly as possible in Buenos Aires.

Scrumhalves TJ Perenara and Tawera Kerr-Barlow fronted the media at their first press conference on Monday and said the All Blacks were respectful of the development of the Pumas game, especially after they led in their last Test in New Plymouth at the half and three-quarter periods.

"When they get going they've got a great set-piece, defensively they're very good as well and they've got some offensive threats that are second to none," said Perenara.

"If they play a game that suits their tempo, if they bring their physicality into games, they can beat most teams and they've shown they can be competitive for good periods of games and we know each time we play against the Argentinian team that our hands are full," he said.

Kerr-Barlow said that apart from having a "really good forward pack" they had some "nippy outside backs".

"If we turn the ball over we've got to flick straight into our defence or else they've got the ability to skin us with their speed. The outside backs are extremely quick and also the halves are very good around the ruck," he said.

Perenara said both Pumas scrumhalves had a good understanding of offensive awareness and were also conscious of when fatigue was setting in and when defensive screens might be vulnerable.

The All Blacks had an early taste of the atmosphere they can expect in their Test match when hosted by River Plate club during a local soccer league match on Sunday. 

Perenara said the fan involvement was on a larger scale than that they experienced at New Plymouth in the first game between the sides three weeks ago when Argentina supporters had made their presence felt.

However, it wasn't something they took too much notice of while playing.

Perenara believes arriving in Buenos Aires on Friday afternoon allowed the All Blacks to get all their jet lag behind them and to approach their week of preparation as they would at home.

They talked about the competitiveness that has evolved since they and Aaron Smith had been the preferred halfback options since 2014. 

Perenara said the player who missed out on the squad selection usually tried to make life as difficult as possible, in training, leading into the Test match to try and ensure the other was prepared to the maximum for the game.

"I want to be the best I can be to make sure he can be the best he can be so that on game day what he has done during the week is at the same level, if not higher, than what it's going to be on Saturday," he said.

Kerr-Barlow said it could be disappointing to miss out on match selection but at the same time you were still part of the best team in the world.

"If I am not playing I use our Thursday training especially like my game," he explained.

"We're always trying to improve and if we can't play the next best thing is being part of the team. So you just have to suck it up and do what is best for your mates and get them prepared as well as you can."

Perenara said he would miss Kerr-Barlow when he leaves at the end of the year to pursue a northern hemisphere career because he was a competitor both on and off the field and was vocal in pointing out where things could be done better.

He would especially miss playing against him, he said.

Kerr-Barlow said he knew his time with the side was running out but he was making the most of every moment he had left.

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