Preview: Argentina v New Zealand

Date published: September 30 2016

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With the Rugby Championship title sewn up New Zealand arrive in Argentina looking to continue their impressive winning streak on Saturday.

The All Blacks haven't lost since August 2015, when they went down to Australia, as they have brushed aside all who have stood before them.

Wins against the Wallabies (twice), Pumas and Springboks secured this year's trophy and it now seems likely their run will continue for a while yet. On their end-of-year tour they tackle Ireland in Chicago and Dublin, Italy and France but not before Bledisloe III in Auckland.

It is fair to say their opponents in this season's Rugby Championship have not been up to scratch. Australia were under-prepared for their opening games while South Africa, who they're still to face in Durban next week, have been struggling. It's been New Zealand's at a canter.

Argentina's first-half in Hamilton was arguably New Zealand's toughest spell, but they came through that with flying colours in the second period in an eventual 57-22 triumph. After beating the Boks the following week they currently sit on 20 points, 11 ahead of the Wallabies.

For the Pumas they are still battling for second place and know that they can be a match for New Zealand if they play like they did in the opening 50 minutes of Round 3. They have definitely improved as a group compared to Super Rugby and at home they'll be a determined bunch.

Their side this week is a dangerous one and it is pleasing to see Agustín Creevy and Guido Petti passed fit to start. However, not having the intelligent boot and experience of Juan Martín Hernández and the powerful Manuel Montero continues to be a frustration for the Pumas.

New Zealand, with the title in the bag, have tinkered slightly. Out goes Malakai Fekitoa who is an expected casualty as Anton Lienert-Brown gets a run while there is a return to an All Black team for Patrick Tuipulotu and TJ Perenara gets the start ahead of Aaron Smith at nine.

Perhaps though it could be a debutant on the bench who will be most keenly watched as Damian McKenzie makes his international bow. If this game is to mirror what happened in Round 3 then the second-half will see things open up and who better than McKenzie to capitalise on open spaces in what should be another passionate, high octane meeting between these two sides.

Players to watch:

For Argentina: If Argentina are to spring a shock on Saturday then a lot will come down to the performance of Nicolás Sánchez. If he can put his forwards into the right areas and send over drop-goals when attacking opportunities dry up in the All Black 22 then there's hope. He simply must keep the scoreboard ticking over as his forward pack will, like in Hamilton, start with purpose so the decision making of Sánchez and Martín Landajo has to be spot on if they are to make New Zealand sweat. Sánchez and the Pumas need an 80 minute performance.

For New Zealand: Given a deserved start, scrum-half TJ Perenara developed into a real leader at the Hurricanes in 2016 and, still only 24 years of age, there's plenty more to come from him. In for Aaron Smith, who misses out altogether, this is a big opportunity for Perenara. It's highly likely Smith will start against South Africa next week but when given a chance as rare as this, expect Perenara to grab it with both hands.

Head-to-head: The two stand-out hookers in this year's Rugby Championship collide again this weekend as Agustín Creevy and Dane Coles face off. Creevy has been a rock for the Pumas over the last couple of years and Argentina must be dreading the day he retires from Test rugby. He has a few more seasons yet though which means many more tussles with Coles, who is in the form of his career right now. So dynamic around the field, his ability to break the line makes him so dangerous and a joy to watch.

Team news: Argentina make three changes to their XV as Ramiro Moyano starts ahead of Lucas González Amorosino on the wing, Martin Landajo comes in for Tomas Cubelli at scrum-half while Guido Petti is at lock, with Javier Ortega Desio replacing Juan Manuel Leguizamon on the flank.

New Zealand have made several changes as in the forwards, Liam Squire will make his first Test start at blindside flanker, replacing the injured Jerome Kaino. In other forward changes, Patrick Tuipulotu will start alongside Brodie Retallick, with Sam Whitelock moving to the bench; Ofa Tu’ungafasi comes onto the bench as replacement prop for Charlie Faumuina; while Elliot Dixon comes in as loose forward cover.

TJ Perenara starts at scrum-half, with Tawera Kerr-Barlow coming onto the bench, while Anton Lienert-Brown is at outside centre, replacing Malakai Fekitoa. Damian McKenzie has been picked in a matchday 23 for the first time and will become All Black number 1154 should he play.

Previous results:

2016: New Zealand won in 57-22 in Hamilton
2015: New Zealand won 26-16 in London
2015: New Zealand won 39-18 in Christchurch
2014: New Zealand won 34-13 in La Plata
2014: New Zealand won 28-9 in Napier
2013: New Zealand won 33-15 in La Plata
2013: New Zealand won 28-13 in Hamilton
2012: New Zealand won 54-15 in La Plata
2012: New Zealand won 21-16 in Hamilton
2011: New Zealand won 33-10 in Auckland

Prediction: It will be closer than the bookmakers are saying as the Pumas will be a threat. But we're going for New Zealand by 15.

The teams:

Argentina: 15 Joaquín Tuculet, 14 Santiago Cordero, 13 Matías Moroni, 12 Santiago González Iglesias, 11 Ramiro Moyano, 10 Nicolás Sánchez, 9 Martín Landajo (c), 8 Facundo Isa, 7 Javier Ortega Desio, 6 Pablo Matera, 5 Matías Alemanno, 4 Guido Petti, 3 Ramiro Herrera, 2 Agustín Creevy, 1 Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro
Replacements: 16 Julian Montoya, 17 Lucas Noguera, 18 Enrique Pieretto, 19 Juan Manuel Leguizamon, 20 Leonardo Senatore, 21 Tomás Cubelli, 22 Jerónimo De la Fuente, 23 Matías Orlando

New Zealand: 15 Ben Smith, 14 Israel Dagg, 13 Anton Lienert-Brown, 12 Ryan Crotty, 11 Julian Savea, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 TJ Perenara, 8 Kieran Read (c), 7 Ardie Savea, 6 Liam Squire, 5 Brodie Retallick, 4 Patrick Tuipulotu, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Dane Coles, 1 Joe Moody
Replacements: 16 Codie Taylor, 17 Wyatt Crockett, 18 Ofa Tu’ungafasi, 19 Samuel Whitelock, 20 Elliot Dixon, 21 Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 22 Lima Sopoaga, 23 Damian McKenzie

Date: Saturday, October 1
Venue: Estádio José Amalfitani, Buenos Aires
Kick-off: 19:10 local (22:10 GMT)
Referee: Jaco Peyper (South Africa)
Assistant Referees: Angus Gardner (Australia), Marius van der Westhuizen (South Africa)
TMO: Johan Greeff (South Africa)

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