After five rounds of The Rugby Championship Argentina are bottom of the table. This was expected. What was not was for Los Pumas to have drawn a match and have had another win taken away from them. Argentina should have won in Mendoza and on the Gold Coast. The goalkicking factor was particularly evident in both matches as was the drop-off from the forwards workrate after the one hour mark. This has been Argentina´s real problem and it is proving to be the difference between Los Pumas and the world´s three best teams. In future years it will be corrected and Argentina will be winning the matches that it has lost by low margins in 2012.
The competition has removed any doubt over the Argentina question. That is, there is no longer any doubt that Los Pumas are deserving of playing in The Rugby Championship. The team is world-class and is in there on merit. There are no positions where Argentina can be said to be lacking talent. The frontrow has been credited as being as strong as ever, the secondrow has arguably been the best in the competition and the backrow has beenvery successful too. But the forwards were expected to be solid. Where Argentina has really left an impression has been in the backs. Martín Landajo is based in Argentina but was impressive against Australia, making numerous linebreaks. Juan Martín Hernández has, unquestionably, been the tournament´s best flyhalf and the centre combination of Santi Fernández and Marcelo Bosch has been rock solid on defence and has offered more flair than Argentina´s stereotypical reputation.
The one area where Argentina has not been so strong is the back-three. Santiago Phelan has been fielding a defensive combination of Horacio Agulla and Gonzalo Camacho on the wings and both have been reliable in this facet of play. On attack, they have not been so impressive. Camacho has been strong, particularly as a worker. He has been off his wing regularly and has made linebreaks and turnovers. He should have scored against Australia but was caught by Pat McCabe. After being injured his replacement, Juan Imhoff, showed what Argentina need - pure speed. His linking with Hernández for Farías´s try was a moment of magic. He should be starting and will be next season, surely. Joining Agulla and Camacho in the back-three is Lucas González Amorosino. He is a high risk player and very dangerous. So far he has not been so successful but La Plata could well change this.
New Zealand has a team comprised of experienced players who have been around for a very long time and fresh faces. While captain Richie McCaw has played 110 matches and all of Dan Carter, Ma´a Nonu, Conrad Smith and Tony Woodcock are highly experienced the team also has raw players including Luke Romano, Julian Savea and Aaron Smith. None of them will have experienced anything like playing in Argentina before and will need to be on their game. All three started in the Wellington test but none of them were able to get the better of their opponent. Romano was tackled hard on more than one occassion, Savea was well contained by Camacho and Smith was put under tremendous pressure throughout. His success in the earlier matches against Australia were not repeated in Wellington. Argentina´s defensive arrangement has been central to the teams performances and this will continue in La Plata.
There are plenty of individual match-up´s of note in this match. The forwards are relatively evenly matched. The frontrows are close to being dead even while Argentina has a better backrow and New Zealand a better backrow. The backs have a number of crucial one-on-one encounters. Santi Fernández v Ma´a Nonu being a clear example. They are vastly different players and in Wellington both delivred good performances. Another is Gonzalo Camacho v Julian Savea. The clash of small v big winger will again be one worth playing close attention to. All eyes will be on Juan Martín Hernández v Dan Carter and with good reason. They have only faced each other twice before. The first was in 2006 in Buenos Aires with Hernández at fullback. The second time was in 2009 in the Top 14 as Stade Français and Perpignan drew at the Stade de France. The biggest one, however, could well be that of Marcelo Bosch v Conrad Smith. Phelan has seen the flyhalf turned outside centre perform to a very high standard. His tackling and, in particular, his covering has been one of the strongest features of Los Pumas so far in the tournament. Should he continue to perform well then a Pumas victory is all the more likely.
History26/10/1985 Argentina 20-33 New Zealand, Buenos Aires
02/11/1985 Argentina 21-21 New Zealand, Buenos Aires
01/06/1987 New Zealand 46-15 Argentina, Wellington
15/07/1989 New Zealand 60-09 Argentina, Dunedin
29/07/1989 New Zealand 49-12 Argentina Wellington
06/07/1991 Argentina 14-28 New Zealand, Buenos Aires
13/07/1991 Argentina 06-36 New Zealand, Buenos Aires
21/06/1997 New Zealand 93-08 Argentina, Wellington
28/06/1997 New Zealand 62-10 Argentina, Auckland
23/06/2001 New Zealand 67-19 Argentina, Christchurch
01/12/2001 Argentina 20-24 New Zealand, Buenos Aires
26/06/2004 New Zealand 41-07 Argentina, Hamilton
24/06/2006 Argentina 19 -25 New Zealand, Buenos Aires
09/10/2011 New Zealand 33-10 Argentina, Auckland
08/09/2012 New Zealand 21-05 Argentina, Wellington
History and form point towards a continuation of New Zealand´s superiority. But number punching can only suggest so much. The result of the Pumas away match against the All Blacks suggests New Zealand is much better. Afterall, the All Blacks won 21-05. But, anybody who saw the game knew it was a well contested match and it took the sin-binning of Julio Farías Cabello for New Zealand to get tthe upper hand. Like in Rugby World Cup 2011, the Pumas were able to defend well and only conceeded tries in the final quarter. This weekends match could well be similar. Argentina have been sturdy and defended very well almost throughout all of The Rugby Championship. The one exception was in Cape Town. In the three other matches Argentina has not conceeded a first half try but has always been the first try scorer. None of the world´s top three were able to break the Pumas defence until Argenitna already had broken theirs. Playing in La Plata is different to Wellington and the Gold Coast. The Oceania away test gave the South Americans confidence and now at home with a vocal crowd it is Argentina´s time to perform. Argentina to win by 2 points.
15 Lucas González Amorosino (Montpellier, France)
14 Goznalo Camacho (Exeter Chiefs, England)
13 Marcelo Bosch (Biarritz, France)
12 Santiago Fernández (Montpellier, France
11 Horacio Agulla (Bath, England)
10 Juan Martín Hernández (Racing Métro, France)
9 Martín Landajo (Los Pampas XV)
8 Juan Martín Fernández Lobbe (Toulon, France)
7 Juan Manuel Leguizamón (Lyon OU, France)
6 Julio Farías Cabello (Los Pampas XV)
5 Patricio Albacete (Toulouse, France)
4 Manuel Carizza (unattached)
3 Juan Figallo (Montpellier, France)
2 Eusebio Guinãzú (unattached)
1 Rodrigo Roncero (unattached)
Reserves: 16 Agustín Creevy (Montpellier, France), 17 Juan Pablo Orlandi (Racing Métro, France), 18 Tomás Vallejos Cinalli (Scarlets, Wales), 19 Tomás Leonardí (Los Pampas XV), 20 Nicolás Vergallo (Toulouse, France), 21 Martín Rodríguez Gurruchaga (Stade Français, France), 22 Juan Imhoff (Racing Métro, France)
15 Israel Dagg (Crusaders)
14 Corey Jane (Hurricanes)
13 Conrad Smith (Hurricanes)
12 Ma´a Nonu (Hurricanes)
11 Julian Savea (Hurricanes)
10 Dan Carter (Crusaders)
9 Aaron Smith (Highlanders)
8 Kieran Read (Crusaders)
7 Richie McCaw (Crusaders)
6 Liam Messam (Chiefs)
5 Sam Whitelock (Crusaders)
4 Luke Romano (Crusaders)
3 Owen Franks (Crusaders)
2 Andrew Hore (Highlanders)
1 Tony Woodcock (Blues)
Reserves: 16 Keven Mealamu (Blues), 17 Charlie Faumuina (Blues), 18 Brodie Retallick (Chiefs), 19 Sam Cane (Chiefs), 20 Piri Weepu (Blues), 21 Aaron Cruden (Chiefs), 22 Ben Smith (Highlanders)
TRC match in Wellington
For a look at the history of matches between the nations in video. Click here.
For a look at the history of matches between the nations in video. Click here.