The spluttering All Black machine exploded into gear at about the 50-minute mark against Argentina thanks to its newest freak of nature, Vaea Fifita.
From that point on, the All Blacks swept aside the brave Argentinians who had actually led by seven points just after half-time.
So, what questions are in our minds after the 39-22 victory?
5. Will Anyone Stop All Blacks’ Terrifying Looking Bench At The Next World Cup?
Steve Hansen tempered the hype about Vaea Fifita’s sensational ball in hand performance by stating that he ‘still had some way to go’ and needed to involve himself more in the dark arts of being a loose forward in the mauls and breakdowns.
However, while Fifita may not be ready to start crucial games in the No. 6 jersey, he could be sensational running at tired defenses off the bench. If all the All Blacks are fit and available for selection, the potential All Black bench for the World Cup could be sensational. TJ Perenara, Ngani Laumape, Ardie Savea, Asafo Aumua, Fifita… the power and pace at Hansen’s disposal is frightening.
4. Would Sonny Bill Williams Be Better As A No. 8?
The way Sonny Bill Williams played in New Plymouth, he seemed like a fourth loose forward. He involved himself mostly in the narrower channels, made good ground and tackled powerfully but didn’t seem to play like a midfielder.
The All Blacks don’t have many options behind Kieran Read at No. 8 and SBW’s size and skills may be ideally suited to the position. Is it too late to change?
3. Is Lima Sopoaga Making Up Ground On Beauden Barrett?
After two very assured performances off the pine against Australia and Argentina, Lima Sopoaga is looking increasingly at home in the Test arena. With the competition from Aaron Cruden gone, he is playing with more maturity, not overplaying his hand to impress and his excellent, consistent goalkicking is an area where he outperforms Barrett.
The New Plymouth Test was a frustrating one for Barrett, perhaps wanting to do too much in front of his family and home crowd. He mixed excellent vision, such his grubber to set up Anton Lienert-Brown’s try, with some wonky kicking at restarts and from the tee. His second half featured a yellow card and a try from full-back. It was that sort of night.
2. Has Ardie Savea Lost His Spark?
Ardie Savea has apparently put on more than 5kg of muscle since last season. However, is this extra weight slowing him down? Against the Argentinians he was industrious without any of the dynamic plays which have characterised previous seasons.
For whatever reason, he seems leg heavy and in need of a break to recapture the potency which made him one of the most exciting forwards in world rugby.
1. Who Will Be The Wings Against South Africa?
Nehe Milner-Skudder had a busy mistake and injury-free game against the Pumas and both he and Israel Dagg on the other wing scored tries. As Rieko Ioane is likely to return to the left wing against the Springboks, will Hansen plump for Dagg or NMS on the right?
The 58-year-old may be tempted to move Dagg to full-back to replace Damian McKenzie, otherwise, Milner-Skudder’s superior defence may put him just ahead in the pecking order. And what about Waisake Naholo? The big Highlander must figure in Hansen’s Rugby Championship plans at some point.
Kaal Kaczmarek, Pundit Arena