Michael Cheika: Argentina boss says poor physicality cost his team the Test against the All Blacks

Dylan Coetzee

Argentina coach Michael Cheika said that his side failed to win the physical battle, which he believes cost Los Pumas the game against the All Blacks on Saturday.

The under-pressure All Blacks bounced back with a powerful 53-3 win over Argentina, a side they had lost to the week before.

Lack of physical presence

Cheika says that Argentina crucially lost the physical battle in the middle of the park, allowing New Zealand to use the wet weather to compound the pressure on the visitors.

“Obviously New Zealand played well, we were below par,” he said.

“The combination of those two things didn’t end up well for us. I think we just lost the battle, lost the physicality. Pure and simple. You got to own it.

“In the first game we owned the physicality and in the second game we lost it. With the conditions as well, that becomes more important and the game got away from us.

“We tried to get back in it in the second half, hedge our way back. Even when we got down on their line, couldn’t just run hard and get over that line to get a try on the board to try and claw our way back.

“You lose the physicality in this scenario and you lose the game.”

Cheika acknowledged that the All Blacks brought one of their best performances of a poor Test season in 2022 but insists that his team failed to bring intensity of their own, resulting in a big loss.

“Obviously they bring intensity but it’s a two-sided equation, we can bring that back as well and we didn’t do that enough,” he added.

“So when you don’t bring it back enough, that’s what happens to you. It was not like it was a surprise.

“We just didn’t come with it, especially around the rucks, in the middle. We lost the battle in the middle and therefore lost the game.”

Struggled in the wet weather

The All Blacks kicked more this week and let Argentina have the ball after Los Pumas dominated the breakdown in the game before. This played right into New Zealand’s hands, and Cheika admits his side did play too much rugby with the ball in hand, and the weather made that approach difficult.

“We did, definitely. I have to take some responsibility there because I’ve got to prep the guys a bit better for wet weather,” he said.

“First time we’ve played in the wet weather. Even with that, we still need to front up with the physicality in the middle of the field, which could have set the platform.

“At these levels if you go down 10 or 15, and they probably went up 15 or 20, then you will pay the penalty.”

Argentina will face South Africa next in a home and away series of two Tests to close out the hotly-contested Rugby Championship.

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