Preview: New Zealand v Argentina
New Zealand will be looking to make it 14 wins on the bounce when they host a revived Argentina at Waikato Stadium in Hamilton on Saturday.
The All Blacks haven’t lost since that 27-19 defeat to Australia in Sydney last year and recently wrapped up the Bledisloe Cup once again.
Now they are pushing to move one step closer to doing something similar with the Rugby Championship, and know that another bonus-point win and victory over South Africa next weekend would see them have one hand firmly on the silverware they lost to the Wallabies 13 months ago.
It is hard to envisage anything other than an All Blacks title when October rolls around, but there is the small matter of seeing off the Pumas first, who have regularly been a tough nut to crack for Steve Hansen. The 26-16 win at Wembley last year in the Rugby World Cup could have gone either way.
Argentina will no doubt have been buoyed by their recent win against South Africa but ending New Zealand’s winning run is surely too much of an ask for a squad that is missing stars like Marcos Ayerza, Marcelo Bosch and Juan Imhoff. Furthermore, Manuel Montero is also injured.
They face a New Zealand team who are doing the basics incredibly well, and while handling and passing to targets in front of the man should be a given for any Test side, the fact that from 1 to 23 they all demonstrate this with ease finished off the Wallabies in comprehensive style.
Beauden Barrett is continuing on from his Super Rugby form while Sam Cane has upped his game with the pressure coming on from Ardie Savea waiting patiently on the bench. What is frightening is that Akira Ioane has been outstanding as an openside in this season’s Mitre 10 Cup. The same can be said of Jordan Taufua, which shows the depth New Zealand has – something the Lions will witness. But that’s for another day.
Their opponents also possess a strong back row unit and that’s where this game could be won and lost. Facundo Isa, Javier Ortega Desio and Pablo Matera look to be Argentina’s long-term trio and with Juan Manuel Leguizamón not involved this week, this is a big chance for Desio.
Argentina will be beaten if they play an expansive style similar to last year’s Rugby World Cup but what they do possess is a strong pack and two intelligent game managers in Nicolás Sánchez and Juan Martín Hernández. Adopting a smart, territorial style is their best option but even that’s unlikely to stop New Zealand from winning, gaining growing momentum as Warren Gatland no doubt watches on from the stands.
Team news: The New Zealand matchday 23 features just three changes from the team that secured the Bledisloe Cup in Wellington. Ryan Crotty returns to inside centre, with Anton Lienert-Brown moving to the bench while Codie Taylor and Luke Romano are also among the replacements.
Argentina have made three changes to their starting line-up with the only backline alteration seeing Matías Moroni come in for wing Manuel Montero who injured himself in Salta. In the engine room, Javier Ortega Desio replaces veteran back-row Juan Manuel Leguizamón at openside flank while Guido Petti takes over from the injured Tomás Lavanini in the second-row. Agustín Creevy again captains the Pumas from hooker.
2015: New Zealand won 26-16 in London
2015: New Zealand won 39-18 in Christchurch
2014: New Zealand won 34-13 in La Plata
2014: New Zealand won 28-9 in Napier
2013: New Zealand won 33-15 in La Plata
2013: New Zealand won 28-13 in Hamilton
2012: New Zealand won 54-15 in La Plata
2012: New Zealand won 21-16 in Hamilton
2011: New Zealand won 33-10 in Auckland
2006: New Zealand won 25-19 in Buenos Aires
New Zealand: 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 Samuel Whitelock, 4 Brodie Retallick, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Dane Coles, 1 Joe Moody
Replacements: 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 Ortega Desio, 6 Pablo Matera, 5 Matías Alemanno, 4 Guido Petti, 3 Ramiro Herrera, 2 Agustín Creevy (c), 1 Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro
Replacements: 16 Julian Montoya, 17 Lucas Noguera, 18 Enrique Pieretto, 19 Marcos Kremer, 20 Leonardo Senatore, 21 Tomas Cubelli, 22 Santiago Gonzalez Iglesias, 23 Ramiro Moyano
Date: Saturday, September 10
Venue: Waikato Stadium, Hamilton
Kick-off: 19:35 local (07:35 GMT)
Referee: Craig Joubert (South Africa)
Assistant Referees: Angus Gardner (Australia), Marius Mitrea (Italy)
TMO: George Ayoub (Australia)