We always look forward to the two fixtures between Australia and Argentina in the Rugby Championship. Invariably the teams are evenly matched and have everything to play for, especially pride as they seek to avoid a bottom spot on the standings table. Consequently, they are invariably tight tense affairs. Last year neither side could get the better of each other and both matches ended in a draw. Sadly this year Argentina are yet to fire a shot in the Championship. However having said that we got a glimmer last weekend against New Zealand that the Pumas are finally starting to click once more. Australia meanwhile, are brimming with confidence after they taught South Africa some valuable lessons, not just once but twice. Pride, passion and plenty of points to prove for both sides, mean that these two games between Australia and Argentina should make for a heady cocktail of Test Rugby.
Just as good if not better than his illustrious predecessor
Former Pumas Captain and Hooker Agustin Creevy is a legend in his own time and his successor Julian Montoya is rapidly proving that he is of the same caliber. He has been one of the shining lights of an otherwise troubled Pumas Rugby Championship campaign. We simply cannot fault any of his performances, and as a leader Argentina could not ask for better. He seems a modest man who simply prefers to get on quietly with the job at hand. He leads quietly but forcefully from the front and every time Argentina does something well you can be pretty sure Montoya has had a hand in it. He earns and commands respect from his players, opponents and referees every game.
A powerhouse Australian second row
In our opinion, Izack Rodda’s return to duty in the Wallaby second row has been a real boost after a spell in France where he had a huge impact at Lyon. We always felt he was slightly underrated, and couldn’t blame him for getting fed up with the circus that was Australian rugby until relatively recently. Paired with Matthew Philip who clearly has a very bright future ahead of him in Wallaby colors, this is precisely the kind of physical unit that Australia will need to contain the likes of Pumas bruisers Tomas Lavanini and Matias Alemanno. The lineout is going to be one of the most hotly contested parts of the park in Townsville on Saturday and most likely set some crucial platforms for both sides. With Darcy Swain and Guido Petti on the bench for Australia and Argentina respectively, you’ll want to make sure that you don’t miss a single throw in.
Like his Captain, a player who has consistently delivered whatever the scoreline
We have to confess to being slightly in awe of Marcos Kremer. Despite Argentina’s misfortunes this year, this is one player who hasn’t had a bad game. Last weekend against New Zealand was perhaps his best effort to date. While it may seem obvious just from his sheer size alone, Kremer is a huge physical presence on the park for the Pumas. He is utterly tireless, seems impervious to injury and whereas most players tire in the final quarter he manages to find an extra burst of energy. Dominant at lineout time, a tackle count off the charts and a menace at the breakdowns and the loose, Kremer is one of the most complete Pumas players we’ve seen in the last twenty years. We tipped him to be a player likely to make a mark when he first burst onto the scene in 2016 and he hasn’t disappointed us once since then. If we or anybody else had to pick a World XV, you’d be hard pressed not to have Kremer’s name on the team sheet. Kremer’s opposite number, Australia’s Robert Leota is probably not going to remember much of Saturday’s game as he and his colleagues suffer a succession of body crunching tackles from the giant Argentinian.
A certain Mr. Ikitau has just entered the pitch – players be warned!
Wallaby centre Len Ikitau had set the tone for South Africa’s second defeat to the Wallabies last weekend by the first quarter. Scoring two superb tries was just the start to a flawless performance that made his South African opponents appear amateurs by comparison. Pretty good for a guy with only a handful of caps to his name. Great players in the making invariably have a breakout game and last Saturday was Ikitau’s. Alongside Samu Kerevi he made Australia highly effective in the centre channels, and defensively Australia finally started to show that they had read the manual on the subject. In short, Ikitau made sure Wallaby Coach Dave Rennie will be featuring him in his World Cup preparations. If the Pumas centre Santiago Chocobares brings his A game on Saturday then this could easily be one of the most exciting contests on the park, but the talented Argentinian is going to have his hands full keeping the Wallaby center in check.
He may only make the bench, but if you want impact then Jordan Petaia is definitely part of Australia’s arsenal of secret weapons
In a way we feel a bit sorry for Wallaby winger Jordan Petaia. The powerful Queensland Reds speedster, appears to have to content himself with a place on the bench for now, such is the form of fellow wingers Marika Koroibete and Andrew Kellaway. We felt for this match that Kellaway and Petaia could have swapped roles with Kellaway warming the bench. However, Coach Dave Rennie clearly sees Petaia as one of his impact men. Petaia is, along with Kellaway, part of what looks like a rosy future for Australia out wide. However, until recently Australia’s defense on the fringes has looked suspect and Petaia in particular, with Kellaway seeming to make a better fist of it with each outing. Nevertheless in terms of breaking the gain line and making meters Australia need Petaia. He’s more powerful with ball in hand than Kellaway and it will be interesting to see how the Wallaby Coaching staff decide to use the two players in the buildup to the World Cup. Either way, once Petaia is on the field Australia will want to make sure he gets plenty of ball.
Despite Argentina’s current woes and Australia’s new found success, we feel that this match is far from being a dead rubber and could actually be the more entertaining of the two Rugby Championship games this weekend. Provided Argentina bring the same kind of grit and work rate they did to their second match with New Zealand last weekend, this could be a tight affair. Let’s face it, that Pumas defense is almost superhuman at times, and something the Wallabies could do well to learn from. In short, we don’t think you’re going to want to miss this one!