The All Blacks will claim a bonus-point win against Argentina in New Plymouth and move to the top of the Rugby Championship standings this Saturday, writes JON CARDINELLI.
The Springboks are on a roll. Their most recent victory – a 41-23 bonus-point win in Salta – saw them surpassing the All Blacks at the top of the Rugby Championship log.
The All Blacks will reclaim the lead at the conclusion of round three. One cannot see the world champions losing to this Argentina side in New Zealand.
What’s more, one cannot see the Boks scoring a bonus-point win against the Wallabies. Indeed, the Boks would be happy with a 3-0 win in Perth, given their rotten run in Australia over the past 21 years (20 losses in 25 matches).
Steve Hansen’s charges shouldn’t want for motivation either. The All Blacks conceded five tries against the Wallabies in Dunedin two weeks ago. They may feel that they have a point to prove, especially on defence, when they host the Pumas.
The All Blacks should look to target the Pumas at the set pieces. Argentina have the worst lineout success rate after two rounds of the Rugby Championship. The likes of Brodie Retallick and Kieran Read should look to make the steal at this set piece on Saturday, and initiate the counter-attack.
The Pumas also have the worst disciplinary record in the tournament. They’ve conceded the most penalties per match (11.5) to date.
Argentina were shown three yellow cards in the recent Test against the Boks in Salta – two which culminated in the sending off of lock Tomás Lavanini. Ultimately, they were forced to compete with 14 men for as many as 44 minutes of the contest.
Can the Pumas keep their cool in New Plymouth this Saturday? One cannot see them controlling their aggression.
They have to stand up to the physicality of the All Blacks. They have to find a way to stop the All Blacks from receiving clean ball at the set pieces and then quick ball at the ensuing rucks (New Zealand boast a 97% success rate in this area, the best in the tournament).
Whether they can stop the All Blacks legally is another story. And if they lose a man to the sin bin, the All Blacks will make them pay.
Most teams struggle to defend with 15 men against New Zealand. The Pumas – who have missed 23.5 tackles per match (rank 3) and have a tackle completion of 82% (rank 3) – will stand no chance with 14.
Stats and facts
o The All Blacks are undefeated in 24 previous encounters with the Pumas and have won 22 on the bounce since a 21-21 draw in Buenos Aires in 1985.
o This will be the All Blacks’ 14th time hosting Argentina, with their last 13 such clashes ending in 13 wins by an average margin of 36 points.
o This will be the first Test played at Yarrow Stadium since New Zealand defeated France there 24-9 in June 2013; the All Blacks average 64 points scored per game from their three previous appearances at the venue.
o The Pumas have lost their last four games away from home. The last time they lost more on the road was a five-game drought in 2013.
o The All Blacks have gained an average of 595m per game this tournament, over 100m more than any other team in the competition.
o Argentina are the only team in this tournament to have lost more than one lineout on their own throw (lost three).
o Rieko Ioane leads the tournament in tries (three), clean breaks (eight), and defenders beaten (13) thus far, while only Israel Folau (255m) has gained more metres than the All Blacks flyer (254m).
o Pumas flanker Pablo Matera has made 20 tackles in this tournament, the fourth-most of any player, and more than any other who is yet to miss an attempt.
All Blacks – 15 Damian McKenzie, 14 Israel Dagg, 13 Anton Lienert-Brown, 12 Sonny Bill Williams, 11 Nehe Milner-Skudder, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 TJ Perenara, 8 Kieran Read (c), 7 Ardie Savea, 6 Vaea Fifita, 5 Brodie Retallick, 4 Luke Romano, 3 Nepo Laulala, 2 Dane Coles, 1 Joe Moody.
Subs: 16 Codie Taylor, 17 Wyatt Crockett, 18 Ofa Tu’ungafasi, 19 Scott Barrett, 20 Sam Cane, 21 Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 22 Lima Sopoaga, 23 Ngani Laumape.
Argentina – 15 Joaquin Tuculet, 14 Santiago Cordero, 13 Matias Moroni, 12 Jeronimo de la Fuente, 11 Emiliano Boffelli, 10 Nicolas Sanchez, 9 Tomas Cubelli, 8 Benjamin Macome, 7 Javier Ortega Desio, 6 Pablo Matera, 5 Matias Alemanno, 4 Guido Petti, 3 Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro, 2 Agustin Creevy (c), 1 Lucas Noguera Paz.
Subs: 16 Julian Montoya, 17 Santiago Garcia Botta, 18 Enrique Pieretto Heilan, 19 Marcos Kremer, 20 Tomas Lezana, 21 Martin Landajo, 22 Santiago Gonzalez Iglesias, 23 Matias Orlando.
Photo: Juan Mabromata/AFP Photo
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