All Blacks last summit for Pumas to climb
There’s no doubt that Argentina deserve their place at the table of the top rugby nations in the world.
Since being included in the Rugby Championship in 2012, Argentina have gone on to beat both Australia and South Africa and make the semifinals of the 2015 Rugby World Cup. While this proves that the Pumas are a threat to any side they encounter, there is still one scalp that evades them – the All Blacks.
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For 50 minutes in Hamilton in early September, Argentina went toe-to-toe with the All Blacks before the superior fitness, clinical finishing and incredible resiliency of Steve Hansen’s side powered the All Blacks to a 57-22 victory.
Don’t expect a similar blow out this weekend in Buenos Aires though.
Teams in the Rugby Championship are finding playing in Argentina harder every year. South Africa found this out early in the Championship when they went down 26-24 in Salta and the All Blacks are sure to find things tougher in Buenos Aires than what they did in Hamilton.
The last 20 minutes is where Argentina let things go in Hamilton, but in Buenos Aires their rampant home crowd will act like a sixteenth player when things get tough.
While the hostile home crowd will certainly help the Pumas, they will also need to play a high-risk, high reward game to have any chance of toppling the All Blacks for the first time.
Argentina exploited the All Blacks defence around the ruck early in the Hamilton Test and will need to keep targeting that area if they are to have any chance.
This means keeping the ball alive in the tackle, rapid recycling, quick fire pick and go’s and constant offloads. If Argentina can get in behind the All Blacks defence, they have the fire power to cross the line.
Add into the mix the dead-eye goal kicking of Nicolas Sanchez and the Pumas will believe they can make history in Buenos Aires this Sunday morning (NZT).
The All Blacks have set the standard in International rugby in 2016 but face a different kind of pressure in Buenos Aires. If Argentina throw caution to the wind and unleash their South American flair they may well end up losing, but they will give themselves a much better chance of winning at the same time.
I think this next generation All Blacks side has shown enough in 2016 that they will be able to handle anything that Argentina can throw at them. But from what I’ve seen from Argentina over the past couple of years, the question is not if Argentina can beat the All Blacks, but when.