Pumas aim for maiden win over NZ in Rugby C’ship; SA take on Oz - GulfToday

Pumas aim for maiden win over NZ in Rugby C’ship; SA take on Oz

Puma

New Zealand players take part in a training session ahead of their Rugby Championship clash against Argentina.

Argentina are looking to maintain the momentum from the Jaguares’ remarkable Super Rugby season as they bid for a first ever victory over New Zealand when the Rugby Championship kicks-off on Saturday.

Just two months before the start of the Rugby World Cup in Japan, reigning champions the All Blacks have named five uncapped players in the 23-man matchday squad as coach Steve Hansen looks at some of his potential options.

Hansen has rested eight players from the Super Rugby-winning Canterbury Crusaders, a luxury that Pumas coach Mario Ledesma could not afford as all but five of his squad play for the Jaguares.

Ledesma has named 13 players that started the Jaguares’ 19-3 Super Rugby final defeat to New Zealand’s Canterbury Crusaders.

The former Jaguares coach said Argentina have only learnt from their rivals and the franchise system that has served New Zealand Rugby so well.

“They’ve been professional for many years, they’ve been dealing with this kind of thing for much longer,” said Ledesma of the All Blacks.

“It’s only recently that we’ve been seeing the new generation, like what happened this year in Super Rugby and with the Pumas, who are all lads from the system.

“They’re all lads trained here, who play here, who weren’t developed anywhere else and who are the first such generations we’re seeing.”

Only Toulon fly-half Nicolas Sanchez, Argentina’s all-time record points-scorer, and Saracens prop Juan Figallo have been added to a Jaguares team that won 11 of its final 13 matches during the Super Rugby season.

“We have the utmost respect for Argentina. We know that we’ll be facing a confident, physical side,” said Hansen.

“Their players will have taken a lot of confidence and self-belief from the Jaguares Super Rugby season, and with the inclusion of their overseas players, there will be added excitement to their group.

“They will see this game as a massive opportunity to make a statement and it will be our job to make a statement of our own.”

Hansen has picked one Crusaders player in debutant Sevu Reece, a 22-year-old Fijian-born wing. Argentina may never get a better chance to defeat New Zealand -- the only Tier One side the Pumas have never beaten.

A solitary 21-21 draw in 1985 sits amongst 27 defeats. The closest they’ve come since joining the Rugby Championship was a 26-16 scoreline at the World Cup four years ago.

All Blacks scrum-half Aaron Smith has warned Argentina not to read too much into the Jaguares fine run.

“Their results in Super Rugby would say they are going to have a really good opportunity. But I believe Test matches are different,” said the Highlanders half-back.

“It’s going to be a hard game. It’s called a Test match for a reason.”

While the Jaguares were rampant in 2018, the Pumas have been toothless in recent years.

Meanwhile, the fairytale rise of South African scrum-half Herschel Jantjies continues on Saturday at Ellis Park in Johannesburg when he makes his Test debut against Australia.

Jantjies, 23, began this year as understudy to veteran Jano Vermaak at Super Rugby outfit the Western Stormers in Cape Town.

But when Vermaak was injured, Jantjies grabbed his opportunity and became the most impressive newcomer this year among the four South African Super Rugby outfits.

His form attracted the attention of Springboks coach Rassie Erasmus and he now gets a chance to become one of three World Cup scrum-halves.

Springboks backline coach and former sevens star Mzwandile Stick has hailed Jantjies for making a huge impact in his first Super Rugby season.

Reinach is on the bench for the Wallabies Test while De Klerk is rested ahead of a clash with world champions New Zealand in Wellington next weekend.

Full-back Willie le Roux, fly-half Handre Pollard and hooker Malcolm Marx are other probable World Cup first choices sitting out this Test and skipper and flanker Siya Kolisi is injured.

South Africa have changed 13 of the side beaten in Wales last November in their previous Test with centre Jesse Kriel and flanker Pieter-Steph du Toit the sole survivors.

Agence France-Presse

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