GOLD COAST, Australia // Argentina again fell short of victory in their first season in the company of the southern hemisphere’s superpowers yesterday but Robbie Deans, the Australia coach, was among those who joined the growing ranks of their admirers.
The Wallabies, the last champions of the Tri Nations competition which was replaced by the Rugby Championship with the addition of Argentina this season, were forced to come from behind in the last 20 minutes to beat the Pumas 23-19.
Any fears that the Argentines would be uncompetitive in their maiden campaign again proved baseless as their physical presence, tactical nous and ability to capitalise on opponents’ errors again rattled a traditional rugby powerhouse.
“They are looking to establish themselves in the comp and they’ve done that, they’ve earnt respect,” Deans said in a pitchside interview at Skilled Park.
“They’re a great side, a side that plays with a lot of pride and a lot of ambition,” he added. “They have a lot of potential and this experience is going to be good for them. Not just this team but players back in Argentina will see what these guys are doing and they’ll want to be part of that dream.”
The Pumas lost their opener 27-6 to South Africa in Cape Town but were unlucky not to come away with more than a 16-16 draw in the return match against the Springboks in Mendoza the following week.
They held world champions New Zealand for the first hour of their third contest before losing 21-5 in Wellington last week and two tries in two minutes early in the second half yesterday scared the daylights out of Australia.
Captain Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe conceded the Argentines had let slip a major opportunity for a rare win over the Wallabies.
“In the last 20 minutes we tried to hold it instead of trying to grab the game,” Lobbe said.
Australia captain and lock Nathan Sharpe, who won his 109th cap in the first Test played in his Gold Coast hometown, was also impressed by the visitors.
“I think collectively as a team they attack the ball at the breakdown, they know when to attack and flood the breakdown and they do it well,” he said. “Their low tackling is very good and their set pieces from their line out and scrums are very good as well.
“They bide their time and they set themselves up, we saw what happened in that two-to-three-minute spell when they put it together and they are dangerous.”
GREYLING IN HOT WATER WITH SPRINGBOKS
Dunedin, New Zealand // Heyneke Meyer, the South Africa coach, promised action against Dean Greyling after he was yellow-carded in the Rugby Championship clash against the All Blacks, saying it cost them the game.
Immediately after the match, won by the All Blacks 21-11, Meyer apologised to All Blacks skipper Richie McCaw, who appeared to be on the receiving end of a forearm smash by Greyling.
It was South Africa's second indiscretion in as many games.
Lock Eben Etzebeth was banned for two weeks for a butt in the Test against Australia and now Greyling faces the judiciary after he dived at McCaw, who was trapped in a ruck, and appeared to hit him in the face.
The incident came in the 63rd minute, just after the All Blacks had taken a 15-8 lead and were starting to take the ascendancy in a physical, torrid, match between two of rugby's most passionate rivals.
"I'm very big on discipline and it's unacceptable," said Meyer, who before the match had expressed his admiration for McCaw as "one of the best players ever".
"I think it cost us the game as well and I want to apologise to Richie and it will be dealt with inhouse, but it's unacceptable.
"We're a team that prides ourselves on discipline and we can't afford these things in games."
Visiting captain Jean de Villiers said if Greyling is found guilty he will face internal action as well as any punishment handed down by the rugby judiciary.
"We'll never condone playing dirty," De Villiers said. "Like the coach said, discipline is a non-negotiable for us and definitely if he was in the wrong we'll take action internally against him."
All Blacks coach Steve Hansen said the hit on McCaw was a "cheap shot" but would not comment further.
"It's not in our hands. The referee and touch judge have yellow-carded it, and the citing commissioner will have a look at it and make the decision, but I thought it was a cheap shot and what happens next will be up to those people."
McCaw, three times the IRB's world player of the year and a veteran of 110 Tests, was not injured by the blow and brushed it off as "just one of those things".
The All Blacks have now won all four of their Rugby Championship matches to stay at the top of the table, while South Africa slipped to third behind Australia, who beat Argentina.
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