All Blacks to avoid another 'dark night'
RUGBY CHAMPIONSHIP SPOTLIGHT: New Zealand coach Steve Hansen’s stinging criticism of his team is having the desired effect.
Hansen compared their 34-36 loss to South Africa in Round Four of the competition as one of the darkest days in All Blacks history – their 2007 World Cup quarterfinal defeat to France in Cardiff.
Since arriving in Buenos Aires – ahead of their Round Five encounter with Argentina – the All Blacks have spoken of avoiding a repeat of the horror show they delivered in Wellington against the Springboks.
Scrumhalf Thomas Perenara, who was on the field for the final quarter in Wellington, admitted criticism like Hansen’s stung the players.
“It’s not something we want our coach to be thinking, and it’s not something we want to be thinking,” Perenara told media in Buenos Aires.
“We want to execute in all parts of the game.
“We need to get that right throughout the course of the game and in the clutch, we need to be making good decisions.”
Perenara said the message will be further hammered home in the build-up to this week’s match.
“Everyone would have looked at the game [against the Boks] – that’s what we do,” said the experienced No.9.
“It’s our job, and our ability to play games, learn from them and get better is why we’re in the position we’re in.
“I would assume everyone would have looked at their individual games and at the review – if they have a chance to have input – I’d put money on people being able to answer, because they’ve done their mahi.”
The All Blacks can wrap up the Championship for a third straight year if they beat Los Pumas.
The world champions are six points clear of second-placed South Africa and a win and a bonus point in Buenos Aires on Saturday would guarantee them the trophy.
However, they know they have their work cut out against an Argentina side who have recorded two wins in the competition for the first time since they joined in 2012.
“We played them [Argentina] in Nelson and we won, but it was a tough game,” Perenara told reporters.
“And I guess the opportunities they took into their game exploited some of our flaws and for a team to be able to do that, well, we take great pride in what we do out on the field and they dismantled us a few times out there so we know the threats that they have and we just know as a unit we need to be better going forward.
“If we play to the level that we played in Nelson we don’t know if that is good enough this time, especially over here in their backyard. We know we need to step it up and play better than we have played against them this year already.”
Argentina has never beaten New Zealand, with their best result in 27 tests to date being a draw in Buenos Aires in 1985.
Nevertheless, hooker Cody Taylor said the All Blacks, who will be without captain Kieran Read, were taking nothing for granted.
“We know that they are going to have a lot of confidence off the back of their win and they should, they are a great team,” Taylor said.
“They have new coaches and are playing really good footie and we respect what they do on the field, and the results that they’ve been getting just show that they are a team that you can’t take lightly and we never have.”