• All Blacks to tame Pumas

    The All Blacks can look to target a suspect Argentina defence in this Saturday’s Test in Hamilton, writes CRAIG LEWIS.

    Just how good is this Pumas side? It’s a question that should be easier to answer after this weekend’s encounter against the world champion All Blacks.

    When Argentina came to Nelspruit for their Rugby Championship opener last month, they outplayed the Boks in several departments and were unfortunate to not come away with a second-ever win in South Africa.

    Nevertheless, they put that disappointment behind them and again outperformed the Boks in a number of key areas on their way to clinching a historic win in Salta.

    Yet, during stages when the Boks were desperately chasing the game and enforcing more of a high-paced ball-in-hand approach, Argentina certainly showed some signs of fragility on defence.

    As illustrated by SARugbymag.co.za’s Opta-powered stats, the Pumas have recorded just a 79.9% tackle success rate over the two matches against the Boks (missing a total of 41 tackles, while making 163).

    On a number of occasions, it was only poor decision-making and execution from the Boks that prevented the Pumas from receiving due punishment, while South Africa’s erratic goal-kicking also let them off the hook in both Tests.

    That’s not likely to be the case this Saturday. At the start of their campaign, the All Blacks have once again displayed signs of their ruthless efficiency on attack. As the stats reveal, the All Blacks have scored 10 tries, executed 40 clean breaks, completed 282m, made 1359m and beat 67 defenders.

    So there’s no doubt Argentina are set for a massive defensive test, and while they’re likely to struggle to live with the All Blacks for the full 80 minutes, the manner in which they front up in this regard should provide real insight into just how far they’ve progressed as a side.

    Problematically for the visitors, they have suffered some injury setbacks, with  Manuel Montero, Juan Manuel Leguizamón and Tomás Lavanini all ruled out of action, while the All Blacks have been boosted by the return of Ryan Crotty.

    Ultimately, the All Blacks will be fully aware that another efficient attacking effort should see them come away with a third successive bonus-point win to strengthen their position of ascendancy at the top of the standings.

    HEAD TO HEAD
    Overall: All Blacks 22, Argentina 0, Draw 1
    In New Zealand: All Blacks 12, Argentina 0

    STATS AND FACTS
    – The All Blacks are unbeaten in their 22 encounters with Argentina, winning 21 and drawing just once in the second-ever meeting between the sides in 1985.
    – New Zealand have won all 12 home games against Argentina, scoring 77 tries in the process, an average of 6.4 per game.
    – The All Blacks have won 10 of their 11 games at FMG Stadium, Waikato, clinching their last five wins in a row.
    – Argentina will be aiming to record back-to-back wins in the Rugby Championship for the first time ever after beating South Africa in their last match.
    – The Pumas’ three victories in the Rugby Championship have come in their last six games in the competition, this after failing to win any of their first 17 (L16, D1).
    – The All Blacks have not lost at home since September 2009, winning 42 games in a row since.
    Source: Opta

    Team Top point-scorer Top try-scorer Most metres gained Most tackles
    All Blacks Beauden Barrett (26) Israel Dagg, Julian Savea (2) Beauden Barrett (157) Sam Whitelock (25)
    Argentina Nicolás Sánchez (21) Juan Manuel Leguizamón, Matías Orlando, Joaquin Tuculet, Santiago Cordero (1) Facundo Isa (147) Matías Alemanno (17)

    All Blacks – 15 Ben Smith, 14 Israel Dagg, 13 Malakai Fekitoa, 12 Ryan Crotty, 11 Julian Savea, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Kieran Read (c), 7 Sam Cane, 6 Jerome Kaino, 5 Sam Whitelock, 4 Brodie Retallick, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Dane Coles, 1 Joe Moody. Subs: 16 Codie Taylor, 17 Wyatt Crockett, 18 Charlie Faumuina, 19 Luke Romano, 20 Ardie Savea, 21 TJ Perenara, 22 Aaron Cruden, 23 Anton Lienert-Brown.

    Argentina – 15 Joaquín Tuculet, 14 Matías Moroni, 13 Matías Orlando, 12 Juan Martín Hernández, 11 Santiago Cordero, 10 Nicolás Sánchez, 9 Martín Landajo, 8 Facundo Isa, 7 Javier Ortéga Desio, 6 Pablo Matera, 5 Matías Alemanno, 4 Guido Petti, 3 Ramiro Herrera, 2 Agustín Creevy (c), 1 Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro.
    Subs: 16 Julian Montoya, 17 Lucas Noguera, 18 Enrique Pieretto, 19 Marcos Kremer, 20 Leonardo Senatore, 21 Tomás Cubelli, 22 Santiago Gonzalez Iglesias, 23 Ramiro Moyano.

    Referee: Craig Joubert (South Africa)
    Assistant referees: Angus Gardner (Australia), Marius Mitrea (Italy)
    TMO: George Ayoub (Australia)

    Photo: Phil Walter/Getty Images

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    Craig Lewis