Argentina poised to be a force at home

DUNCAN JOHNSTONE
Last updated 05:00 13/11/2011
Argentina
MARK TAYLOR/Waikato Times
TAKEN DOWN: The volatile nature of playing in Argentina means the Pumas will be a force for their home matches as they join next year's Rugby Championship.

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The volatile nature of playing in Argentina means the Pumas will be a force for their home matches as they get set to join the All Blacks, Wallabies and Springboks in next year's Rugby Championship.

With the Tri-Nations expanded to four teams to accommodate Argentina, the home and away series has a fascinating new factor.

Former All Blacks assistant coach Wayne Smith warns that the Pumas will need to be given a bit of time to get up to speed with test rugby's most intense competition.

But there's no doubt that at home the Pumas bare their claws.

Smith's last test as an All Black in 1985 was in the 21-all draw in Buenos Aires and he helped coach New Zealand to a squeaky 25-19 win there in 2006.

While the Pumas have been easybeats in New Zealand, the All Blacks have rarely won easily in South America.

The All Blacks are unbeaten in eight tussles with the Pumas in New Zealand, averaging a 56-11 storyline.

But in Argentina they have five wins and a draw with an average scoreline of 27-17.

"It's that Latin temperament," Smith says, having tasted the competition as a player and a coach.

"They are highly emotional at home. They have a very patriotic crowd and tests there are huge occasions, especially when the All Blacks come to town.

"I think you see that with the likes of Argentina and France when they play in their own backyard."

With the Rugby Championship given major approval from the IRB the onus will be on the sport's powerbrokers to make sure the Pumas field their top lineup.

It's imperative they are competitive and do justice to their third placing and quarterfinal effort at the last two World Cups.

Smith had no doubt some of the top Pumas would be under pressure from their French clubs.

He believed any young Argentina players signing with French clubs in the future needed to make sure they had a clause in their contracts ensuring they could play test rugby.

"I think the Pumas need to be given a bit of time in this competition," Smith said.

"But it's a fantastic initiative for southern hemisphere rugby and world rugby. It's an opportunity they deserve and they need to now make the most of it."

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