BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) - Argentina may not have beaten New Zealand yet in 25 tests but All Blacks teams have experienced the passion of local crowds that have pushed the Pumas to the brink of victory on several occasions in Buenos Aires.
The teams meet at Velez Sarsfield on Saturday with New Zealand looking to retain their Rugby Championship title. The Pumas are seeking their first win at the 26th attempt, with one draw their closest effort 32 years ago.
The less experienced All Black players got a taste last Sunday of what to expect at Velez.
They felt the passion of Argentine supporters while attending a first division soccer match at the River Plate stadium where the All Blacks narrowly escaped defeat in 2001.
“The home crowd will be boisterous and passionate and just themselves. Some of the guys went to the soccer on Sunday and they experienced that,” All Blacks coach Steve Hansen told reporters on Thursday.
“We’ve got eight guys that haven’t been here before, so a lot of them went and what I do know is the only way to keep the crowd out of it is by playing well and that will quieten them down a bit,” he said before the team’s practice.
“So (the team‘s) aim is to keep them quiet, but, you know, it creates an atmosphere which is really unique and one that we enjoy.”
Hansen said All Blacks learn quickly how to handle being favourites and the pressure a hostile crowd can generate.
“It is an everyday thing when you’re with the All Blacks. When you come in to the environment, whether you are a coach, a manager or a player you know that’s expected,” he said.
“Doesn’t matter who you play, you’re expected to win and win well and the quicker you can understand that and accept that, then the quicker you can deal with the pressure.”
Writing by Rex Gowar, editing by Pritha Sarkar