Rassie Erasmus expects the All Blacks to beat the Pumas and clinch the Rugby Championship title with a round to spare on Saturday. JON CARDINELLI in Port Elizabeth reports.
Erasmus chuckled when the question was put to him at a press conference in Summerstrand on Thursday. Can Argentina do the Boks a favour and beat the All Blacks in Buenos Aires?
The Boks have to beat the Wallabies in Port Elizabeth this Saturday to keep their slim hopes of winning the Rugby Championship alive. Thereafter, they will need Argentina to down New Zealand – a tough ask given that the Pumas have never claimed a Test win against the men in black.
‘It’s a long shot,’ the Bok coach said with a sigh. Erasmus commended the Argentinians for their improvements, both at Super Rugby and Test level. It wasn’t too long ago when the Boks finished on the wrong side of a result in Mendoza, and the Wallabies were brought low on the Gold Coast.
Can Argentina beat the No 1 side in the world, though? It doesn’t sound like the Bok coaches and players will be holding their breath when they watch the game during the early hours of Sunday morning.
‘We saw how hard it was to play there,’ said Erasmus. ‘There is a lot that visiting teams have to contend with, from the wind to the dimensions of the field to the referee.
‘We were beaten comfortably a few weeks ago. So when you put it like that, another win for Argentina this Saturday doesn’t seem that far-fetched.
‘That said, we all accept that the All Blacks will probably beat them. I see that everybody is suddenly talking about the All Blacks’ vulnerabilities and the holes in their system. We don’t see that. We actually felt that we were lucky to beat them [two weeks ago in Wellington].’
Perhaps a more realistic goal for the Boks is a second-place finish in the tournament. It’s been four years since the Boks won three or more games in the Rugby Championship. If they beat the Wallabies and the All Blacks in the next two weeks, they will finish with a four from six record.
‘There have been no easy games for us this year,’ said Erasmus. ‘It was perhaps a bit different in previous years. This Rugby Championship has been tough, and we know that all four Tests on the end-of-year tour [against England, France, Scotland and Wales] are going to be a challenge. Every game right up to the World Cup is going to be tough.
‘We have to get the result on Saturday, but we also have to ensure that we take things forward from the All Blacks game. We have to keep improving on a weekly basis.’
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