A stewing Argentina team missing veteran hooker Agustin Creevy will land in Australia with words of praise from the All Blacks still ringing in their ears.
The Pumas face the Wallabies in Brisbane on Saturday hoping to bounce back from a gutting 20-16 Rugby Championship loss to an under-strength New Zealand in Buenos Aires, having come within a whisker of a first victory over the world champions.
They’re without former skipper Creevy, who suffered a shoulder injury in a match which the All Blacks spent in desperate defence for most of the final quarter.
Stand-in New Zealand captain Sam Cane says it underlines how far the South Americans have come.
Cane says the Pumas have honed a resilient method based around rush defence and breakdown disruption, which won’t have gone unnoticed by the Wallabies.
Australia had difficulty handling South Africa’s defensive line speed in their 35-17 loss to the Springboks in Johannesburg.
“The Pumas are very accurate, very good one on one defenders and make a nuisance at the breakdown,” Cane said.
“They might not pinch the most ball but they certainly know how to slow it down. Their ability to just get back on their feet and keep coming off the line shows real desire.
“They put us under pressure from the first whistle right up to the last second of the game.”
The Pumas comprise almost the entire Jaguares team, who employed a similar style this season which took them to a maiden Super Rugby final appearance.
The captain of both teams, flanker Pablo Matera, believes the national side can go to another level under coach Mario Ledesma.
Matera says he and Ledesma are frustrated rather than happy to push the All Blacks closer than any time in their last 18 meetings.
“We took another step but in the first half we were too structured. Then we took a little more risk and went well,” Matera said.
“He (Ledesma) has worked hard to improve the level of the team and now against Australia we need more again.”