All Blacks wary of Pumas' passion
BUENOS AIRES: Argentina might not have beaten New Zealand in 25 tests but All Black 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 tomorrow with the All Blacks looking to retain their Rugby Championship title. The Pumas are seeking their first win at the 26th attempt. One draw, 32 years ago, is their closest effort.
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 football 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 Black coach Steve Hansen said yesterday.
‘‘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 learned quickly how to handle being favourites and the pressure a hostile crowd could generate.
‘‘It is an everyday thing when you’re with the All Blacks. When you come into the environment, whether you are a coach, a manager or a player you know what’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.’’
Argentina has recalled veteran No 8 Juan Manuel Leguizamon among four changes to its team.
Winless in four Rugby Cham pionship tests, Pumas coach Daniel Hourcade has turned to 34yearold Leguizamon to make a difference against the unbeaten visiting side.
Unavailable for this month’s 3922 loss to New Zealand in New Plymouth, the tough 79test loose forward returned off the bench for the 4520 loss to Australia in Canberra.
His start results in demotion for flanker Javier Ortega Desio and Tomas Lezana switches loose forward roles.
Leguizamon’s 80th test appearance will lift him to fifth on the Argentina caps record. The threetime World Cup veteran has played the All Blacks 10 times.
Another seasoned returnee is lock Tomas Lavanini, who did not tour Australasia after being sent off in the home loss to South Africa last month. He replaces Matias Alemanno.
Hourcade continues to rotate his halfbacks. Tomas Cubelli will start, ahead of Martin Landajo, and there is a backthree reshuffle. Joaquin Tuculet returns at fullback, pushing Emiliano Boffelli to the left wing in place of Ramiro Moyano.
Two proven internationals, prop Ramiro Herrera and first fiveeighth Juan Martin Hernandez, return from injury on the bench.
The Pumas are led again by worldclass hooker Agustin Creevy.