Are Los Pumas the new 'bullies' of the game?
SPOTLIGHT: Argentina has developed an unwanted reputation – as the new ‘bullies’ of the game.
Following their historic win over New Zealand and come-from-behind draw with Australia, they are the darlings of all neutral fans.
However, both the All Black and Wallaby camps have suggested Los Pumas are guilty of using ‘dirty tricks’ to provoke the opposition.
The New Zealand media reported that All Black coach Ian Foster has asked for his side to implement a ‘smile and walk away’ when they meet Argentina in their Tri-Nations return match at the McDonald Jones Stadium in Newcastle this coming Saturday.
In their two most recent Tests, back-to-back losses against Australia and Argentina, the All Blacks were let down badly by their discipline.
They gave away 26 penalties between the two games combined, with a number of those being avoidable.
Particularly in the game against Argentina, the All Blacks committed a number of penalties for reacting to their opposition.
Speaking to Newstalk ZB‘s Martin Devlin, Foster said while the side had been working on their physicality, it wasn’t smart to be drawn in by niggling opposition.
“When we attempted to get stuck into it, we were getting penalised,” Foster said.
“Let’s face it, an opposition player tapping you on the head to provoke you is not really niggle, is it? That’s just a tactic from them; just smile and walk away.
“The players are getting frustrated with some of the actions people are getting away with, so now we’ve gone back to the bad old days where the only player being seen by referees is the retaliator and I’m not a big fan of that because the people who are doing the initial stuff are getting away with it.
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“Quite frankly we’ve just got to get better at dealing with that. It’s not smart to retaliate.”
Los Pumas captain Pablo Matera is being portrayed as the figure at the centre of the storm.
Matera has been widely criticised for pulling the hair of the Wallaby hooker Brandon Paenga-Amosa during the boring 15-all Tri-Nations draw with the Wallabies in Newcastle.
And one Australian writer has turned the heat up further, accusing the Pumas of operating a dirty tricks campaign.
Julian Linden, in the Daily Telegraph, wrote: “Discipline remains Australia’s biggest problem. The Wallabies still give away too many stupid penalties and cough up possession by pushing passes that aren’t on.
“Worst of all, they keep taking the bait and retaliating to off the ball incidents that blow up in their faces.
“The Pumas get a lot of praise for their passion but they deserve plenty of stick for their dirty little tricks – which include pulling hair, kicking players and blatantly lying on the ball.
“The Wallabies know that but still fall for it every time and it cost them dearly in Newcastle.”
It raises the spectre of a spiteful return bout between the All Blacks and Pumas in Newcastle on Saturday.
Veteran All Black hooker Dane Coles was roundly criticised for losing his cool against the Pumas, conceding a penalty reversal after slapping an opponent in the face. And the once invincible All Blacks get rattled under pressure, something all opponents will play on.
The Argentinians are using a spoiling game suited to their strengths and weaknesses which increases the chances of bad blood flowing in their matches.
Source: RugbyPass, nzherald.co.nz, Newstalk ZB and Daily Telegraph