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Rugby Championship: New Zealand v Argentina Preview
Our in-house rugby fanatic takes a look at this weekend's Rugby Championship clash between New Zealand and Argentina.
New Zealand will be looking for their third successive bonus point win in the 2016 Rugby Championship when they take on Argentina in Waikato this Saturday. The hosts are yet to be beaten in the tournament while the visitors have registered a win and a loss.
New Zealand v Argentina | Saturday 10 September | FMG Stadium | 09:35
To Win (80 Mins)
New Zealand 1/33 | Draw 40/1 | Argentina 10/1
New Zealand (-23.5) 9/10 | Argentina (+23.5) 9/10
We may only be two rounds into the tournament but New Zealand, in my opinion, have already got the Championship in the bag. They have beaten the Australians home and away and will surely get the other 16 points - if they even need that many - from their remaining four games against Argentina and South Africa.
Steve Hansen’s men have been so magnificent this term that the Wallabies were apparently forced to resort to spy tactics in order to try and even up the playing field with a suspicious device being found in the All Blacks changing room prior to the tournament opener in Sydney.
Whether this was Michael Cheika channeling his inner James Bond or it was just a strange looking cellphone that ‘Bruce’ the ANZ Stadium manager left behind, is up for debate. If it was an attempt at espionage, it didn’t really work as the Wallabies still went down by 20 points the week after the scandal broke.
New Zealand sustained a few casualties during their unbeaten start to the campaign with winger Waisake Naholo picking up a hamstring injury and a whole host of hookers going down with varying injuries. The thing is, though, these injuries didn’t really curtail their performances with Julian Savea bagging two tries after taking over from Naholo at half-time during the first Test.
New Zealand has such a talented and bountiful playing pool that their whole starting XV could be struck down by injury and they’d still be able to field a side that would beat all-comers. Anton Lienert-Brown proved this point in the second Test. Having come in for Ryan Crotty - who makes a return this week after recovering from a concussion - the Chiefs man put in a virtuoso debut performance which included a brilliant pass that set up the opening try.
Speaking of talented players, young Beauden Barrett has continued to stake his claim for the World Rugby Player of the year with two brilliant displays against the Wallabies. I cannot wait to see him and Argentine talisman, Nicolas Sanchez, square off this Saturday.
These Argentines get better and better with each passing season. Not only did they manage to get their second ever victory over South Africa two weeks ago but they also ran the ’Boks close in the opener at the Mbombela Stadium and had it not been for a few moments of magic from local lad Faf De Klerk, the Argentines may well have left Mpumalanga with four points in the bag.
Argentine rugby continues to evolve year in and year out. While their tight-five still enjoy the occasional punch up, they’re now more inclined to dominate their opposition in the collision rather than via a Tyson-esque right hook. Their loosies have some of the slickest hands in the game, while their backs are probably the best exponents of the counter-attack in world rugby. They also possess a pivot with one of the best kicking records in the modern game.
The only problem for the Argentines is that they are now coming up against the best in the business instead of a Springbok side who are in the midst of an identity crisis. While the ’Boks conspired to butcher try scoring opportunities, the New Zealanders won’t. Argentine counter-attacks will be shut down by the Kiwi’s watertight defence. Basically, the South Americans aren’t going to be afforded the same luxuries they were against the South Africans.
The Stats That Matter
The All Blacks have never lost to the Argentines with Los Pumas best result being a draw which came way back in 1985.
New Zealand have won four out of the last five clashes between the sides by a margin of 15 points or more with last year’s World Cup pool stage game between the two being the Argentine’s narrowest loss (26-16).
New Zealand have averaged 3.2 tries per game over the last five games while Argentina’s average only sits at 1.6.
Only one of the last five games between the two teams has seen a combined points total of less than 42 points with the last two games comfortably passing the 40 point mark.
Verdict: New Zealand (-23.5) 9/10
I have a feeling the Argentines' ill-discipline will see them play a huge segment of this game without their full quota on the field. While the South Africans failed to capitalise on their numerical superiority, New Zealand will have no such issues. Back the All Blacks to clear the –23.5 handicap at 9/10.