|Agustín Pichot and Andrew Mehrtens swap uniforms post-match|
In eight days time New Zealand will play host to Argentina at Waikato Stadium in Hamilton. It is to be a round three match of the Rugby Championship and is likely to see two of rugby´s greatest players over the past twelve years take the field. Richie McCaw and Felipe Contepomi were both involved in the 2011 fixutre in Buenos Aires and both have been leading their countries in the 2013 Rugby Championship thus far. Contepomi is likely to again play as the starting inside centre but the captaincy will be handed to the returning regular captain, Juan Martín Fernández Lobbe.
In 2001 Contepomi was a Puma with a bright future. He had already played in one Rugby World Cup and in 2011 he had been selected ahead of the 1999 tournament´s leading points-scorer Gonzalo Quesada. Coach Marcelo Loffreda saw a lot of potential in Contepomi and would use him at both flyhalf and inside centre throughout his time as coach from 2000-2007. Contepomi was the flyhalf for the 2011 fixture. He played outside Agustín Pichot and inside captain Lisandro Arbizu. It was the second match of the year between ths sides with New Zealand having hosted a match earlier in the year in Christchurch. On that occassion the New Zealanders were too strong and completed a comfortable victory. Argentina, nonetheless, had its moments with Arbizu scoring a classic try. Arbizu would complete a rare feat by scoring three tries in two tests against the All Blacks in the year 2001. He would score a double in the Buenos Aires end of year test as Argentina very nearly completed a first ever win over New Zealand.
The pressure Argentina was putting on the New Zealanders combined with the vocal home support put Argentina in a winning position but an injury time try to Scott Robertson saw New Zealand sneak home. Earlier in the match Argentina had scored twice, both times from putting pressure on the All Blacks. Upon scoring the second try Argentina held a 17-14 lead 15 minutes into the second half. The try came from a restart with Contepomi kicking deep and New Zealand failing to secure the kick cleanly. It was not due to a lack of talent. The kick was taken by Richie McCaw who passed badly to captain Anton Oliver who was not expecting the pass and fumbled it. Doug Howlett collected it just outside of the in-goal area and after taking it back he attempted to pass to Andrew Mehrtens but instead a bad pass saw Arbizu scoring for the home side.
The match is the highest attended fixture on record for a rugby match between New Zealand and Argentina. It was played at Argentina´s largest stadium - El Monumental, also known as River Plate Stadium. A full house attended the match in 2001 to underline the status of Los Pumas following the team´s performances in previous years which included a win over Australia in 1997, a Quarter Final placing in Rugby World Cup 1999 and wins over Scotland and Wales in the weeks leading up to the match itself. The stadium could find itself hosting the Rugby World Cup final in 2023. It hosted the 1978 FIFA World Cup Final and the 2011 Copa América Final. Despite having undergone downsizing, due to changes to international safety standards, it continues to be of a sufficient size to meet the requirements of hosting a Rugby World Cup Final and the tournament´s opening fixture. It is of a comparable size to Murrayfield.