All Blacks: Perfection required by Pumas

By Daniel Richardson

The Pumas are seeking their first ever win over the All Blacks. Photo / Getty Images
The Pumas are seeking their first ever win over the All Blacks. Photo / Getty Images

Argentina know that nothing less than a perfect performance will be good enough to defeat the All Blacks in Wellington tomorrow night.

With an abrasive forward pack and an underrated backline, the Pumas aren't to be taken lightly, but their captain Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe said his team were well aware of what it will take to win.

"We have to try to maintain the initiative, try to attack the game from the first minute and do that during 80 minutes," he said.

"We will need to be perfect in defence. We will need to be perfect in attack. I think the word for tomorrow is try to be perfect on everything you do and give your best and everything you have. Get out of that field empty."

The All Blacks were given a scare by Los Pumas in last year's World Cup quarter-final at Eden Park, where the eventual champions were held tryless until the 66th minute and had to rely on penalties from Piri Weepu for the bulk of their scoring.

New Zealand ran out 33-10 winners but the scoreline flattered the home side who dotted down in the final few minutes through Brad Thorn.

The Pumas have spoken all week about how excited they are to be involved in the Rugby Championship and their presence in a top-flight international competition was a long time coming.

Now they are here, they don't simply want to make up the numbers and head coach Santiago Phelan said they had realistic goals about what they wanted to achieve in the competition.

"What we want to try is improve playing with the ball, we want our attack systems to continue with our decisions in defence and to keep on developing players at this level to play with the intensity that New Zealand, Australia and South Africa play," Phelan said.

"We are not used to having that intensity of play before this tournament. We usually play six games a year, three in June, three in November. Now we are in a tournament where we play every week at this intensity."

Argentina opened the Rugby Championship with a 27-6 defeat to South Africa in Cape Town on August 19, before they held the Springboks to a 16-16 draw in Mendoza two weeks ago.

There's added starch to this weekend's fixture with former All Black coach Graham Henry in the Pumas camp and he could even sit in their coaches' box at Westpac Stadium tomorrow.

Rain is forecast, which could provide a leveller given wet conditions might slow down the All Blacks' backline.

Argentina's prowess up front is well known and Pumas hooker Eusebio Guinazu, who will line up in his 21 test tomorrow, said his side brought a unique passion to the contest.

"We are all professional rugby players now but we grew up with the amateur spirit so that's why we play with a lot of heart," he said.

"We are really a group of friends so that's why, I think, we play with a lot of heart and try to be really physical. It's the only way to play and to be positive in the game."

- APNZ

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