Patrick McKendry

Patrick McKendry is a rugby writer for the Herald.

All Blacks: Pumas skulduggery poses worry

All Blacks must be wary but ill-discipline could be Argentina's own undoing if players repeat recent behaviour.

The All Blacks were pleasantly surprised by their clash against Argentina in La Plata last year but could be excused for being mildly apprehensive ahead of their test in Hamilton in a fortnight.

Last year they were heading into the unknown at the Estadio Ciudad de La Plata in their first away match against the Pumas in the Rugby Championship.

What they got was a home side who were determined to be the perfect hosts - Argentina for some reason electing to go for a running game rather than reprising the tight approach that almost reaped them dividends in the Wellington rain a few weeks earlier.

And rather than the wildly threatening atmosphere many predicted, it was instead a carnival of goodwill in the stands - the All Blacks receiving a standing ovation after the 54-15 victory which secured them the title.

A laser shone in the eyes of Aaron Cruden as he lined up a late shot at goal. That had the potential to leave a slightly sour taste but coach Steve Hansen was keen to smooth the waters afterwards, saying it wasn't a big deal.

However, the alleged actions of two Argentines in their recent 22-17 defeat to the Springboks in Mendoza suggest the All Blacks would do well to be on guard once again.

In what has soured an excellent response to their 13-73 thrashing of a week earlier in Soweto, flanker Pablo Matera has been cited for eye gouging and No8 Leonardo Senatore cited for biting.

Both incidents occurred within minutes of each in the second half - Springboks flanker Francois Louw the alleged victim of Matera's actions and lock Eben Etzebeth reacting angrily to an alleged bite on the arm by Senatore.

Both incidents were referred to the TMO by referee Steve Walsh, but inconclusive footage meant no action was taken during the game - the Sanzar citing commissioner deciding both reached the red card threshold for foul play and requiring of further investigation.

If found guilty, both players face a long spell on the sidelines.

The International Rugby Board places biting alongside testicle grabbing in terms of seriousness, with eye gouging not far behind.

Both Matera and Senatore face bans of between 12 and 24 weeks if the decisions go against them. The maximum ban for biting is four years.

The recent developments are unfortunate for coach Santiago Phelan and his assistants, including Graham Henry.

The Argentines have been a breath of fresh air in what was becoming a stale Tri Nations format and ill-discipline when their playing stocks are already limited was the one thing they did not need.

Morne Steyne's goalkicking got South Africa home in the final minutes in Mendoza thanks to other indiscretions by the Pumas - this time spotted by Walsh - in the wrong part of the field.

With Dan Carter likely to be fit for the match at Waikato Stadium a week on Saturday after missing the All Blacks' opening Rugby Championship victories over Australia which retained the Bledisloe Cup for his team, Argentina cannot afford to create a reputation for dirty play.

The boot of Carter - or Beauden Barrett - could quickly put the match beyond them.

- APNZ

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