Jim Kayes

Jim Kayes has been covering rugby since the late 1990s across print/online, radio and television with The Dominion Post,, TV3 and Newshub, Radio Live and Radio Sport.  He's been to five World Cups, covered almost 200 All Blacks Tests and was on safari with the Lions when the British and Irish side last toured New Zealand, in 2005.

Read more exclusive columns

All Blacks get a pass mark in Buenos Aires - Kayes

Getty Images

Jim Kayes     21 Jul 2019     Getty Images

That’s the fairest summation of an uneven performance against Argentina that saw the All Blacks kept scoreless in the second half for the first time since they lost to South Africa in Port Elizabeth in 2011.

In part, that’s because the Pumas defence was very good. It’s also because the All Blacks inexperienced bench failed to provide the punch expected in the second half.


The bench is meant to change the game, to shift things up a gear, but these extras, with three on debut and only Nepo Laulala in double digits for Test caps, couldn’t provide that.

It’s a telling fact for coach Steve Hansen to consider as he knows impact off the bench will be crucial at the World Cup.

He also knows this All Blacks side was missing a Crusaders front row, two Crusaders lock, skipper Kieran Read, and three hugely influential backs in Richie Mo’unga, Ryan Crotty and Jack Goodhue.

If anything, this test underlined the value, quality and influence of those Hansen left behind, in the forwards in particular.

It’s why Hansen isn’t panicking but said instead the win was like winning Lotto because he got to test new combinations, blood a couple of new players, rest those who are at home and get out of Buenos Aires with the required win - their 450th Test victory.

No one will care, should the All Blacks win the World Cup in Japan in a few months, that they were a bit patchy in the opening Rugby Championship match in July.

Rather, this match might be seen as the springboard for better things to come.

There are still areas of concern. Vaea Fifita was unconvincing at blindside as was the midfield combination of Ngani Laumape and Anton Lienert-Brown, though to be fair, they are both fine players and this was a new combination.

Ben Smith was also well below his best at fullback but he has barely played in the last few months after tearing his hamstring with the Highlanders.

Smith, like the All Blacks, will improve with game time.

On the positive side, the All Blacks defence was good with Retallick, Sam Cane, Aaron Smith and Beauden Barrett leading the way.

Ardie Savea was strong at No.8 and offers depth there behind Read, or an option to start there with Read moving to blindside.

In that respect it will be intriguing to see what Hansen does with his loose forwards for the test against South Africa in Wellington.

The drums will also be beating for Mo’unga to start ahead of Barrett who is often and easily blamed when the All Blacks are below their very best.

His brother, Jordie, featured on the left wing but that’s unlikely to be repeated in the near future with Rieko Ioane expected to start against the Springboks.

And if Reece can back up a solid debut on the right wing then he, Ioane and Ben Smith could be the starting back three for the big Tests.

That’s okay because as the win against Argentina showed, the All Blacks need punch off the bench and Barrett can provide that.

Getting that balance right will be the key to success at the World Cup and Hansen will feel he’s gained some valuable knowledge to that end from an otherwise largely forgettable test in Argentina.