James Ihaka 's Opinion

James Ihaka is a Herald reporter based in Hamilton.

Day Seven: Following the All Blacks in Argentina

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ABs supporters on their way to Estradiol Unico. Photo / James Ihaka
ABs supporters on their way to Estradiol Unico. Photo / James Ihaka

The Argentines call him "El Crack" and "El mejor jugador del mundo".

Myself and a couple of other Kiwis are told El Crack is not a reference to a popular narcotic or having a good time but a term Portenos use for a team's best player.

The locals also rate Dan Carter as the world's best player and "el diferente" - the difference between the All Blacks and the Pumas.

But even when his comments are translated in Spanish, he appears humble and tells local newspaper he's excited and just really looking forward to the match.

In the last few days tonght's test match at Estadio Unico at La Plata, about an hour south of Buenos Aires, has taken on a new meaning.

Now everyone is talking about the match where tickets cost up to US$400, including our doorman Miguel who knew little about the All Blacks earlier this week but suddenly had an opinion as we left for La Boca early yesterday.

"Los pumas va a ganar" (The pumas will win). I even called him "mate" a few days back.

Rugby gets a good chunk of air time on the local ESPN network and dominates the sports pages of the local papers.

If you ask a local what they know of the All Blacks all seem to bash their arms and poke their tongues at you doing their version of the haka.

Suddenly deportes shops throughout Buenos Aires have All Black jerseys in their windows sometimes separating bitter local rivals Boca Juniors and River Plate.

There's a nervous energy among the busloads of All Black supporters now numbering about 350.

They are getting antsy, and I'm not sure if it's because of the countdown to the match itself or the large numbers of South Africans who have suddenly appeared at our hotels.

Most of our travelling party have immersed themselves in the history of Buenos Aires, eaten a lot of steak and enjoyed the warm hospitalities extended to them by this incredible city.

But now it's game day.

We've been warned about Estadio Unico and the noise the Puma fans generate there. But despite good performances by the Pumas at this year's Rugby Championship - they should have beaten both South Africa and Australia - we are confident the All Blacks will do the job.

Still, many of the fans don't seem too perturbed if we don't pull it off. The Pumas could create history tonight - and we'd be there to see it.

James Ihaka is in Buenos Aires following the All Blacks and their supporters thanks to the courtesy of Air New Zealand.

James Ihaka

James Ihaka is a Herald reporter based in Hamilton.

James Ihaka has worked at the NZ Herald since 2006 having moved from the Gisborne Herald newsroom, more consistent surf and nil traffic worries. He’s a latecomer to journalism after stints travelling and teaching English as a foreign language and a foray into IT. James has worked in the Herald’s Hamilton newsroom since 2008 and he covers all breaking news in the Waikato region that encompasses virtually everything south of the Bombay Hills to Palmerston North. He took over the Maori Affairs role late last year and has whakapapa to Te Aupouri, Ngati Rangitihi, Ngati Porou and Ngati Raukawa ki te Tonga.

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