Argentina can beat the Wallabies if they pitch up with the same side – both mentally and physically – that beat the All Blacks, writes JAMES DALTON.
Look at the facts. The All Blacks have dominated world rugby for the last decade, never losing to Argentina before nor two back-to-back Tests in nine years. There are clearly issues in the All Blacks set-up, but let the focus be on Argentina this week.
The Argentinians totally rattled the All Blacks early in the game, gaining ascendancy, and simply outclassed them for the duration of the contest. The All Blacks, under so much pressure, cracked in discipline. This has become evident whenever they are under pressure, as was the case when they lost to Australia the previous weekend.
Argentina won all the small battles. They dominated turnovers, carries, metres made and tackles, indicating a comprehensive victory on both attack and defence. Argentina played rugby the way it’s meant to be played, and kept the scoreboard ticking over. As Kitch Christie used to say to us: ‘Get that 13-point lead so that a team has to score twice.’ In a big international contest, it’s not easy to chase two tries and the 25-12 scoreline pointed to that same mindset from Matera’s men.
Argentina had 62 rucks in their favour, of which they were able to recycle 96.9. This means they were able to negate the area in which the All Blacks have always been dominant, and the ruck contest which is becoming most decisive in games. The Pumas tackled chest high, negating offload ability and disrupting fluidity, and manipulated the All Blacks pack with left- and right-shoulder scrums neutralising the flanks. They were strong in defence of their lineout, too, and to sum it up – they beat the All Blacks in a classic All Blacks style of rugby. On the day, they were better than the ABs at their own game.
Pablo Matera’s comment to Angus Gardner, when questioned on his pushing of New Zealand players, summed up the Argentinian attitude and passion: ‘I cannot see them kick one of my guys, it is not respect – I play for my country.’ I hope this passion resurfaces against the Aussies along with the technical nous the Argentinian side showed.
Australia and New Zealand drew in their first match, New Zealand responded with a convincing win and then, in the third encounter, Australia strangled an ill-disciplined All Blacks showing.
In emphatically making history by beating the All Blacks, the Argentinians showed that there is no clear best among the three sides at the moment, no one team that stands head and shoulders above the rest. The concern lies in the Argentinians’ inconsistent nature on the international stage, but one hopes that the Pumas don’t re-enact their history against tier-one nations when they face the Wallabies this Saturday.
In terms of team quality and performance, when you look to tackle efficiency, physical, set-piece and breakdown dominance, I don’t think Australia have it in them to match that sort of intensity and physicality. If Argentina can bring this same all-round quality, matched with the passion that characterised their All Blacks win, they will beat Australia.
I would love to see Argentina back up their performance this weekend. It would be healthy for them, and it would be healthy for world rugby. In a similar way to the Springboks winning the World Cup, it balances the scales. It reminds the world that a new standard can be set, and that standard is not All Black.
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