(Reuters) - Argentina’s quest of more than 30 years to land the biggest scalp in world rugby continues when the Pumas clash with New Zealand in a Rugby Championship test at Velez Sarsfield in Buenos Aires on Saturday.
Argentina have beaten all the top rugby nations bar the world champions, coming closest in a 21-21 draw in 1985, but they have so far fallen short against the All Blacks despite the familiarity of meeting twice a year since 2012.
New Zealand can retain the title with a win ahead of their final test in South Africa next week. They have 19 points to 11 for the Springboks, 8 for Australia and none for Argentina.
The Pumas today are a side admired by New Zealand as they have acquired an impressive attacking game but the risks they take in going forward are exploited by their southern hemisphere rivals as they tire in the latter stages of a test.
“I think fatigue is what leads to our performance diminishing a bit and our game becoming a bit disorganised,” lock Marcos Kremer told Reuters.
“We need to stick to our game system to the last minute, which is what I think we don’t do, because 10 to 15 minutes from the end we start to lose it and the result escapes us.”
Argentina led New Zealand 16-15 at halftime and by seven points after 50 minutes in their previous meeting in New Plymouth on Sept. 9 before conceding three converted second half tries in the final half hour and going down 39-22.
Prop Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro said an important part of Argentina’s training this week has been on always having a man marking an All Blacks opposite.
“We’ve been focusing on defence, on having one against one because we believe that will be key,” he said.
Faced with defending an unbeaten record in 25 tests against the Pumas, New Zealand are not taking the match lightly knowing that Argentina have beaten South Africa twice and Australia once in their five previous seasons in the tournament.
“It’s all part of being involved in the All Blacks, there’s a legacy we’ve got to look up to and we’re playing a team that’s a very proud rugby nation in their own right,” assistant coach Ian Foster told reporters.
“They’ve had some great victories over nearly every other team and I guess they are passionate about trying to beat us.
“We don’t go out there with the fear of having to defend that (unbeaten record), it’s more the excitement of us playing as good as we can and that’s our goal on Saturday.”
Additional reporting by Miguel Lobianco; Reporting by Rex Gowar, editing by Pritha Sarkar