MENDOZA, Argentina (Reuters) - Argentina’s Pumas will be looking to avoid ending the Rugby Championship without points while the Australian Wallabies will play for second place when the teams meet in the last match of the tournament on Saturday.
The Pumas would complete their worst season since joining the elite southern hemisphere competition in 2012 if they fall to a sixth consecutive test defeat and fail to bag even a bonus point.
They are trying to avoid their previous worst season in 2013 when they took two bonus points and add a victory to make it one win in each of the last three championships.
Australia, winners once in 2015 since it became a four-nation tournament, must win and hope South Africa lose champions New Zealand in Cape Town to leapfrog the Springboks into the runners-up spot.
Argentina’s difficulty in getting more wins is down to the fact that they are playing against three of the world’s top five teams in the tournament and their failure to maintain their intensity for the full 80 minutes.
“We had an excellent first half against Australia in Canberra,” winger Emiliano Boffelli, who is in his debut season in the championship, said. “In Mendoza, we must manage to maintain that intensity the whole match.”
When the Pumas played the Wallabies in Canberra three weeks ago, they led 13-10 at halftime before Australia scored five converted tries to win 45-20.
Australia are taking nothing for granted on their third visit to Mendoza where they lost in 2014 but won in 2015.
The Wallabies’ assistant coach and former flyhalf Stephen Larkham, who played against the Pumas in six tests, believes Argentina are better than their results show.
“Their world ranking probably doesn’t give credit as to how good they are,” Larkham said.
“Coming up against New Zealand, South Africa and Australia, (three of) the top five teams in the world, on a consistent basis, is really tough,” he told reporters.
Australia are the side on which Argentina’s coach Daniel Hourcade mostly models the game he wants from his Pumas with Larkham saying: “Both teams play with a lot of flair and keep the ball in hand as much as possible.
“Argentina being at home will bring a lot of intensity to the start of the game,” he added. “I think it’s going to amount to a very exciting game to watch.”
Reporting by Rex Gowar, editing by Ed Osmond