Touring with us
They love a police escort in Argentina.
When the All Blacks are in Buenos Aires, shotgun-wielding officers ride on the back of motorbikes in a phalanx around the team bus. In a city where driving rules seem optional, traffic is halted so the bus can sweep majestically through otherwise busy intersections.
Drivers who nudge forward in frustration often suffer some panel beating from steel-capped police boots. When the Rugby Championship kicked off in 2012, that first test in La Plata was an eye-opener for the All Blacks. Yes, the travel was crazy, but so too was the crowd at the test. A match in Argentina is beyond noisy.
It will be very different at the scaffold Stadium in Christchurch on Saturday and so too is the background to this test. The All Blacks rolled into Buenos Aires 10 years ago, having won all seven tests that year. Ironically they kicked things off with a 3-0 sweep of Ireland, had back-to-back wins against the Wallabies, and then beat South Africa and Argentina before heading offshore.
Those were calmer times. Steve Hansen was inarguably the All Blacks head coach and he had a settled side full of some of the game's greats, the likes of Richie McCaw, Dan Carter, Conrad Smith, Ma'a Nonu, Keven Mealamu and Tony Woodcock. Add to that the emergence of Kieran Read and Julian Savea, along with Brodie Retallick, Sam Whitelock, Sonny Bill Williams and Ben Smith (relative newcomers at the time) and that was a settled and extremely gifted All Blacks side. If they were a body of water, that All Blacks team was Lake Taupo. Deep in talent, calm on top.
The All Blacks of 2022 are more like a surf beach, with each crushing wave carving out the sand, reshaping the foreshore and threatening to drag everything out to sea.
After a magnificent win at Ellis Park, the crowds will be cheering from the steel stands on Saturday for another All Blacks win. And in stark contrast to what has been a tumultuous few weeks, Foster has retained the team that played so well in Johannesburg for this test against Argentina.
Well, there is one change: a neck injury forcing Beauden Barrett out and giving Stephen Perofeta what should be his All Blacks debut from the bench on Saturday. That consistency of selection is key to consistency of performance, something the All Blacks have struggled to achieve this year. They were magnificent at times in the first test win against Ireland and showed flashes of what can be in the second and third test defeats, and even in the opening loss to South Africa.
But even the win at Ellis Park, as good as it was, wasn't a complete performance. It was a start, though, a step in the right direction, and a performance skipper Sam Cane says is now a marker, a springboard he hopes will push the All Blacks back to the top of the international game.
"We'd been saying for a couple of weeks we'd been improving, and we then took a significant step in that game," Cane says. "It's a performance that we're proud of for sure but it's just a start of where we want to get to and how we want to get better. "It's one performance. Just because we got that one right doesn't guarantee we get this one so there's plenty of work to go in this week. For us it's a good stepping stone."
The next step is against a Pumas side that are no longer the easy beats of the Rugby Championship. They beat the All Blacks two years ago and thrashed the Wallabies two weeks ago. They are stacked with Europe-based players who are among the best in their northern clubs and they have arrived in New Zealand brimming with confidence.
It would be a nightmare if the All Blacks were to lose, given most fans want the dust to settle and the focus to return to the rugby.
If the pack can repeat its efforts from Ellis Park, the All Blacks should be too good for Argentina. That is almost always the case with the All Blacks. Their attacking game, when it has good, front-foot ball, is almost without comparison, and this team is no different