Argentina coach Michael Cheika has hit back at his All Blacks counterpart amid accusations that the Pumas were guilty of bending the rules in a historic 25-18 Rugby Championship win in Christchurch on Saturday.
Ian Foster’s position as All Blacks coach is back under fire after a shock first defeat to the Pumas on home soil, New Zealand’s sixth loss in their last eight Tests, and Cheika openly sang the praises of Crusaders coach Scott Robertson, the man many critics believe should replace Foster.
Foster complained Argentina had used underhand tactics to slow down the speed of the ruck, and claimed the ruse had gone unnoticed by 27-year-old Georgian referee Nika Amashukeli.
“Overall I just felt that they got away with some stuff at the breakdown, not releasing the ball carrier on the ground, and we weren’t able to deal with it,” said Foster. “It was an area we got hammered in the penalty count at critical times. I’m probably a little bit bemused by some of that.”
Cheika felt the accusations reeked of sour grapes. “Well, he’d be an expert on it because his team does it all the time, so he should know,” the former Australia coach said. “I don’t know if that’s the right response after the game.”
Cheika took a second dig at Foster, who was rubber-stamped last week by New Zealand Rugby to remain All Blacks coach through to next year’s World Cup. It came at a time of mounting public belief that Robertson should be in charge after capturing six successive Super Rugby titles with the Canterbury Crusaders.
Cheika delivered a sardonic response when asked about the influential display on Saturday of Pumas flanker Pablo Matera, who played a full season for the Crusaders this year.
“I think that the Crusaders have made a really huge mark, and Scott Robertson has made a really huge mark on Pablo,” Cheika said. “It shows the quality of the franchise and the coaching here, he’s come back a heaps better player — mentally and technically.”
Cheika is hopeful the Pumas will reproduce the same intensity when the teams meet again in Hamilton on Saturday.
In their 15 previous losses in New Zealand, Argentina had never got within 15 points of the hosts and Cheika said he would be reminding his players to expect a huge response from the home side.
“It’s a blockbuster because they’re going to be coming with everything,” Cheika said.
“It’ll be a great lesson for us on how to handle these situations when they’ll be coming hard. We’ve got to bring something as well to match it.”
© Agence France-Presse