New Zealand v Argentina - Teams and Prediction
RUGBY CHAMPIONSHIP ROUND THREE: Argentina are already riding high atop The Rugby Championship standings and are now setting their sights on a historic first win over the All Blacks on New Zealand soil on Saturday.
Off the back of a record-breaking defeat of Australia, the Los Pumas lead the competition for the first time in their decade-long involvement.
Their form has prompted head coach Michael Cheika to pursue another landmark – toppling an All Blacks side in Christchurch who are still finding their feet after a turbulent spell.
Argentina have played the All Blacks 15 times in New Zealand since 1987 and lost the lot.
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“I want to be part of the coaching staff that beats them for the first time in New Zealand, the opportunity’s there,” Cheika, an Australian, said.
“We’re working towards the World Cup and we’re trying to get everyone in sync.
“But along the way, you can change some things and make some landmarks.
“Firsts aren’t easy because not only do you need to do something that’s difficult, you also need to have the mental strength to get over the idea that, ‘ok, can we be the ones that change history?'”
Cheika was buoyed by Ireland’s historic series win a month ago, the first time the Irish had beaten the All Blacks in New Zealand.
He believes his team boast the same sort of self-belief, particularly with memories still fresh of their 48-17 dissection of the Wallabies two weeks ago.
It was the Pumas’ biggest margin of victory over any tier-one rival and represented the first time they’ve scored seven tries against a leading nation.
Cheika was an assistant coach when Argentina first beat New Zealand two years ago, in Sydney, when eight of this week’s starting team were involved.
However, the prospect of again catching the hosts cold appears slim.
The All Blacks remain a team under pressure, despite beating the Springboks 35-23 two weeks ago, a result that ended a three-match losing streak and saved head coach Ian Foster from the sack.
Cheika is familiar with many of the New Zealand players through his former tenure as Wallabies coach and he wasn’t surprised by their win in Johannesburg.
“I know a lot of those guys, I’ve faced them over the years, and that last game showed how much character they have to come up trumps in a difficult situation,” Cheika said.
“But now we face a situation where we can change history, the challenge is there for us.”
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Foster said he was impressed by Argentina’s attacking verve against Australia and senses a change of approach.
Inspirational back-rower Pablo Matera is a key figure, Foster said, particularly given his knowledge of the cold and compact Orangetheory Stadium in Christchurch.
Matera is part of the Crusaders team who call the stadium home and recently were crowned Super Rugby champions.
“They still have that typical Argentinian combativeness at the breakdown,” Foster said of Saturday’s opponents.
“So those things won’t change, but I think they’re playing with a bit more ambition.
“I’m pretty impressed by what they delivered in their last Test so they’ll come here trying to have a no-fear approach to this game.”
Players to watch:
For New Zealand: Richie Mo’unga, who delivered a class performance against the Springboks a few weeks, will again be out to impress especially at his own stomping ground at Christchurch. His Crusaders’ teammates Scott Barrett and Sam Whitelock have also been impressive and would want to continue their run. Ardie Savea is always a player who can cause havoc at the back of the scrums, while his powerful carries and work rate gets his team frontfoot ball. There is one change on the bench, with flyhalf Beauden Barrett ruled out by a neck injury and replaced by the uncapped utility back Stephen Perofeta after an impressive season for the Blues.
For Argentina: The inexperienced Lucio Cinti comes onto the left wing for Juan Imhoff while 60-Test outside back Matias Moroni is restored in place of the injured Jeronimo de la Fuente, reuniting with long-time midfield colleague Matias Orlando. Cinti and Moroni are both sizeable backs, something that would be important to counter the All Blacks midfield. Up front, Joel Sclavi is the final change he will start at tighthead prop.
Head to head
@rugby365com: New Zealand by five points
New Zealand: 15 Jordie Barrett, 14 Will Jordan, 13 Rieko Ioane, 12 David Havili, 11 Caleb Clarke, 10 Richie Mo’unga, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Ardie Savea, 7 Sam Cane (captain), 6 Shannon Frizell, 5 Scott Barrett, 4 Sam Whitelock, 3 Tyrel Lomax, 2 Samisoni Taukei’aho, 1 Ethan de Groot.
Replacements: 16 Codie Taylor, 17 George Bower, 18 Fletcher Newell, 19 Tupou Vaa’i, 20 Akira Ioane, 21 Finlay Christie, 22 Stephen Perofeta, 23 Quinn Tupaea.
Argentina: 15 Juan Cruz Mallia, 14 Emiliano Boffelli, 13 Matias Moroni, 12 Matias Orlando, 11 Lucio Cinti, 10 Santiago Carreras, 9 Gonzalo Bertranou, 8 Pablo Matera, 7 Marcos Kremer, 6 Juan Martin Gonzalez Samso, 5 Tomas Lavanini, 4 Matias Alemanno, 3 Joel Sclavi, 2 Julian Montoya (captain), 1 Thomas Gallo.
Replacements: 16 Santiago Socino, 17 Mayco Vivas, 18 Eduardo Bello, 19 Guido Petti, 20 Santiago Grondona, 21 Tomas Cubelli, 22 Tomas Albornoz, 23 Santiago Cordero.
Date: Saturday, August 27
Venue: Christchurch Stadium, Christchurch
Kick-off: 19:45 (04:45 ART; 07.45 GMT)
Expected weather: Cloudy with a high of 13°C and a low of 6°C
Referee: Nika Amashukeli (Georgia)
Assistant referees: Nic Berry (Australia), Jordan Way (Australia)
TMO: Brian McNeice (Ireland)