Ollie Ritchie: Discipline key to All Blacks' approach against pesky Argentina in Rugby World Cup semi-final

OPINION: Not a lot has changed in the All Blacks approach against Argentina, apart from their mindset.

We know that last week was very good performance - easily one of their best in the Ian Foster era - but they think that won't help them this week. They will need to go to another level and keep pushing up.

They have to give the Pumas the ultimate respect, because this is a team that have knocked over the All Blacks twice in the past few years.

Argentina celebrate victory over the All Blacks at Christchurch.
Argentina celebrate victory over the All Blacks at Christchurch. Photo credit: Getty Images

While the All Blacks may be favoured to win this semi-final and probably win it well, if they don't give them the respect they deserve and the respect they've earned, they could be heading for a third-fourth playoff, where they do not want to be. 

Last week, winger Mark Telea missed team curfew, as I understand it, having a few drinks and time can get away on you in those situations.  

Coach Foster came down relatively hard on him and dropped him for the week, but he has been one of the form wingers, so in the end, bringing him back into the starting line-up sounds like a relatively easy decision, once he'd done his time.

Sam Whitelock's experience against Ireland was crucial. Those last couple of minutes felt like they took about 20 minutes, but the All Blacks were so level-headed, so calm, so disciplined in and around that breakdown, itwas was really quite impressive to see.

When you can bring a guy like Sam Whitelock on, with all his 151 tests of experience, that is crucial for the All Blacks and he absolutely delivered, winning that crucial turnover. The way they just stayed calm, with about 60,000 screaming Irish fans in that stadium... it felt like they were playing in Dublin.

That didn't get to them, they remained calm, they knew what they had to do and ultimately, they executed it really well. 

They're certainly a team riding high with confidence and back themselves. If they can put in a performance that is anywhere near what they put in against Ireland, they have the team to power over the top of Argentina essentially.

Discipline will be crucial, because the Pumas can knock over penalties from anywhere. I think their range is about 55 metres, so the All Blacks have to be super-disciplined.

They weren't in Christchurch last year. They had a really comfortable lead at halftime and everything was going well, but suddenly, they gave away a few penalties, they were ill-disciplined, the Pumas knocked over the penalties from about 50 metres, and suddenly they had the lead and ran away with the game.

When Argentina get their tails up, and get that confidence and scoreboard pressure, they can be a very hard team to reel in. 

I was a bit shocked by Dane Coles' omission, to be honest. He's delivered for the All Blacks, primarily in a bench role, like Sam Whitelock, bringing that cool head - most of the time anyway, but certainly that experience.  

They wanted to bring a bit more punch with Samisoni Taukei'aho. His lineout work isn't as crisp as Dane Coles, but he's a big power runner and they think they can get a little bit purchase in and around the ruck and the tryline, particularly when they are close.

He is strong with ball in hand and they hope to utilise that this weekend.

Samisoni Taukei'aho in action against France.
Samisoni Taukei'aho in action against France. Photo credit: Photosport

Looking ahead to the final - if the All Blacks make it that far - the final would be too close to call against South Africa.

If it's England, you would expect the All Blacks to go in as relative favourites, although last time they played England, they blew a lead in the last 10 minutes and it ended up a draw. 

South Africa are a much taller order. You remember that game at Twickenham a couple of months ago now, when the Springboks absolutely powered over them and really took the game away in the first 25-30 minutes.

They are very different opposition and although the All Blacks would never admit it, I am sure they would prefer a match-up with England. I think that's a contest they would back themselves to win.

South Africa are a different task altogether and a much more difficult task for the All Blacks to overcome.

Now that France are out of the tournament, Paris is full of tears on a daily basis. 

You might think the life would be sucked out of the tournament, but a lot of the fans are actually getting on board with the All Blacks now. They have a real love for the All Blacks in this part of the world - they support them throughout the year, when France aren't playing.  

You can feel that support switch from France to the All Blacks, but France has got behind this World Cup and you have to give them credit for that.

Even during poolplay, when there were no real heavyhitters playing - like Portugal v Georgia - they were still selling out stadiums.

France has got behind this tournament and now we're at crunchtime, they'll certainly get behind it again. You might see some of those blue jerseys turn black.

Ollie Ritchie is Newshub's rugby reporter at the World Cup. Join us at 8am Saturday for live updates of the All Blacks v Argentina semi-final