Preview: Argentina v New Zealand
The All Blacks have their work cut out for them if they are going to extend their unbeaten streak against Argentina in La Plata on Saturday.
The All Blacks have their work cut out for them if they are going to extend their unbeaten streak in La Plata on Saturday.
The world champions have not lost a game yet this year and will start as favourites against the Pumas who are yet to register their first victory in the competition, but the visitors know that they will have to be on their game if they want to keep that run going.
Argentina have improved with every outing in their debut season in the competition this year, and they will be desperate to go one better than the draw with the Springboks in their only other home fixture to date.
The newcomers have shown that they can match the rest of the sides in terms of intensity, but have not been able to sustain their efforts for 80 minutes yet, so they will be determined to show they can go the distance in front of their home crowd.
The All Blacks have not been entirely convincing since clinching the Bledisloe Cup, recording tense wins at home against the Pumas and the Springboks, so they will want to raise their own standards and judging by coach Steve Hansen's team selection they will not be taking anything for granted.
There is likely to be an early storm for the All Blacks to weather, as the Pumas have got stuck into the opposition up front in all of their matches so far, and are sure to be charged up in front of an enthusiastic crowd in the coastal city.
If New Zealand can get their game-breakers involved early they may be able to build a lead and silence the crowd, but it is more likely that they will have to absorb the pressure and take their opportunities when they come.
Argentina have shown that passion and skill are valuable in this competition, but they will have to show accuracy and focus if they want to down the world champions this weekend.
The Pumas will want to pin the All Blacks in their own half and pressurise the visitors into mistakes, but New Zealand thrive on the opportunity to counter-attack, which should make for an intriguing tactical battle.
Players to watch:
For Argentina: Skipper Juan Martín Fernández Lobbe and flyhalf Juan Martín Hernández have been amongst the most consistent performers in the competition and will be key if they are to match the All Blacks. Look for fullback Lucas González Amorosino to inject some pace and excitement out wide whilst up front veteran prop Rodrigo Roncero and lock Patricio Albacete will take the opposition on.
For New Zealand: The spotlight in the build-up has been on Dan Carter who makes his return from injury, and he will be expected to create space for the dangerous runners outside him, but the real magic could come from fullback Israel Dagg who is in red hot form. In the forward pack Liam Messam will want to show he belongs beside the other two loose forwards and Andrew Hore has an opportunity to show what impact he can make from the first whistle.
Head to head: The battle for the ball on the ground between All Blacks captain Richie McCaw and Pumas flank Juan Manuel Leguizamón should be intense, but there will also be a few key duels in the tight five. Roncero's battle with Owen Franks at scrum-time should be brutal, and in the line-outs Albacete will want to disrupt Sam Whitelock. The most intriguing clash could be between the flyhalves Carter and Hernandez, but the counter-attacking skills of Amorosino and Dagg from the back will be just as important.
2012: New Zealand won 21-5, Wellington
2011: New Zealand won 33-10, Auckland
2006: New Zealand won 25-16, Buenos Aires
2004: New Zealand won 41-7, Hamilton
2001: New Zealand won 24-20, Buenos Aires
2001: New Zealand won 67-19, Christchurch
Prediction: The Pumas will be tough to beat on their home turf but the All Blacks should do enough to win by about five points.
Argentina: 15 Lucas González Amorosino, 14 Gonzalo Camacho, 13 Marcelo Bosch, 12 Santiago Fernández, 11 Horacio Agulla, 10 Juan Martín Hernández, 9 Martín Landajo, 8 Juan Martín Fernández Lobbe (captain), 7 Juan Manuel Leguizamón, 6 Julio Farías Cabello, 5 Patricio Albacete, 4 Manuel Carizza, 3 Juan Figallo, 2 Eusebio Guiñazú, 1 Rodrigo Roncero.
Replacements: 16 Agustín Creevy, 17 Marcos Ayerza, 18 Tomás Vallejos, 19 Tomás Leonardi, 20 Nicolás Vergallo, 21 Martín Rodríguez, 22 Juan Imhoff.
New Zealand: 15 Israel Dagg, 14 Cory Jane, 13 Conrad Smith, 12 Ma'a Nonu, 11 Julian Savea, 10 Daniel Carter, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Kieran Read, 7 Richie McCaw (captain), 6 Liam Messam, 5 Samuel Whitelock, 4 Luke Romano, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Andrew Hore, 1 Tony Woodcock.
Replacements: 16 Keven Mealamu, 17 Charlie Faumuina, 18 Brodie Retallick, 19 Sam Cane, 20 Piri Weepu, 21 Aaron Cruden, 22 Ben Smith.
Date: Saturday, September 29
Venue: Estadio Ciudad de La Plata, La Plata
Kick-off: 20.10 (23.10 GMT)
Expected weather: Partly cloudy, high of 21, low of 13, North East wind 20/kph
Referee: Jaco Peyper (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Craig Joubert (South Africa), Pascal Gauzere (France)
TMO: Francisco Pastrana
By Michael de Vries