Knowing Dave Rennie like he does, Brodie Retallick is wary of what tricks the second-year Wallabies coach may have in store for the All Blacks in 2021.
Rennie hit the All Blacks between the eyes in his first match in charge of the Wallabies six months ago, going within centimetres of masterminding Australia's first Test win in New Zealand in almost 20 years.
The new-era Wallabies ultimately had to settle for a 16-16 draw in Wellington before conceding the Bledisloe Cup for a 17th straight year.
But a last-up 24-22 win over the All Blacks in Brisbane last November placed the ABs on notice.
Rettalick, introduced to Super Rugby by Rennie before winning two titles together at the Chiefs almost a decade ago, believes the Wallabies will only be better in the second year under their new coach.
"I've only seen what he produced last year with the team but there were some encouraging signs there," the former world player of the year said from Japan ahead of next weekend's Top League quarter-finals.
"I know one thing for sure - 'Renns' loves a challenge and he'll put in the work that's needed.
"So I hear there's going to be a Rugby Championship this year and obviously getting back-to-back Tests and another year under his belt working with players hopefully there's some exciting times built on last year's performances."
After two seasons with Kobe Steel, Rettalick will return to New Zealand this year feeling revitalised ahead of the Bledisloe Cup series and the return of the Rugby Championship after the four-team event was reduced to a Tri Nations competition last year after South Africa pulled out during the pandemic.
The 29-year-old lock has no doubt the Top League will have provided an adequate preparation for the Tests ahead.
"It's probably not as physical, especially up front, as Super Rugby but the speed and the skill is really high," Retallick said.
"Last year I only played five games before I had to head back to New Zealand because of COVID so the break ended up being about six, seven months, which has been awesome for the body.
"Then, to come back and have a decent pre-season before playing some rugby, it's been good."
All Blacks playmaker Beauden Barrett is also confident of being in great nick when he returns to New Zealand after his Top League stint with Suntory Sungoliath.
"It's not too dissimilar to playing Super Rugby. A lot of people think that we come up here for a holiday but it's everything but that," Barrett said.
"We're training and playing really hard. The work ethic of my teammates and the people up here is impressive.
"I hope to come back home in great condition ready to get into whatever's thrown at me.
"So we just have to wait and see. That's up to (All Blacks coach) Ian Foster.