Aaron Smith braced for tough opener with Pumas

Adam Kyriacou

New Zealand scrum-half Aaron Smith is expecting a tricky assignment when they begin their Rugby Championship campaign against Argentina.

Smith, who is preferred ahead of TJ Perenara and Brad Weber as a starter this weekend, has been impressed with the Jaguares’ form in 2019.

But while he feels international rugby is a step up in terms of intensity and quality, he knows playing in Buenos Aires will be difficult.

“Their results in Super Rugby would say they are going to have a really good opportunity. But I believe Test matches are different,” he told the All Blacks’ website ahead of the game at Jose Amalfitani Stadium.

“They are going to have a different team, as well, a few new players coming in. And we are going to have our strongest team out there as well.

“It’s going to be a hard game. It’s called a Test match for a reason.”

New Zealand have never lost to Argentina in their previous 32 meetings but in recent years the games have been tough contests, admits Smith.

“Every time I’ve played the Pumas over here it has been a very, very hard game,” he said.

“After the anthem they are pretty pumped up and you have got to deal with that and you’ve got to deal with the first 10 minutes of passion they are going to bring but then also their ability to use the ball with their physicality and speed, it is a tough old game so you know when you’ve played the Pumas.”

On a personal note, Smith will go up against Tomas Cubelli on Saturday and revealed he will have to be on his game against the wily Puma.

“He’s very physical. You always know when he’s there,” he added.

“Any little mistake that you make he’s going to punish so us nines are going to have our hands full with whoever they play but Tomas is a big part of their attack, creating unstructure around the ruck and looking for opportunities. So our nines are going to have to keep an eye on him as well.”