Australia will look to build on last weekend’s triumph over South Africa when they play host to Argentina in The Rugby Championship on Saturday night.
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The Wallabies come into this encounter on the back of a well-deserved 23-17 victory over the Springboks in Brisbane last week, while Argentina were demolished 57-22 by New Zealand after an encouraging start. The game will be played at nib Stadium in Perth with kick off scheduled for 8.05pm AEST.
It’s been a tumultuous year for the Wallabies, but Michael Cheika’s team managed to fight and battle their way to record their first victory of the season at Suncorp Stadium last Saturday night, emerging 23-17 winners over South Africa. The triumph saw the Wallabies retain the Nelson Mandela Plate for another year - their first piece of silverware in 2016 - while it was also Australia’s first win since they toppled Argentina in last year’s World Cup semi-finals.
For the first time in 2016 the Wallabies played attractive and entertaining rugby, with Michael Hooper claiming man of the match honours, while Quade Cooper, Will Genia, Samu Kerevi and starting debutant Reece Hodge all experienced memorable outings. After a tough and challenging campaign this year, Cheika believes the Wallabies have re-discovered their groove and will prove a formidable side for the reminder of 2016.
“Mostly I’ve learnt that we have a solid team,” he said. “We’ve been getting a fair bit of heat but everyone has stayed strong.
“I felt we defended better tonight. We missed a couple of tackles but there were not too many linebreaks. I thought our scrum was good and out lineout was solid. We didn’t lose any throws although we dropped a couple of balls.”
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Next up for the Wallabies will be entertaining Argentina in Perth on Saturday night. Australia have a tremendous record against the Pumas, winning 11 of their last 12 meetings, while they haven’t lost to the South American heavyweights on home soil since 1983.
An interesting sub-plot to this clash is Argentinian legend Mario Ledesma and his association with Australia as their scrum coach. Ledesma played 84 Tests for the Pumas and is one of their favourite sons. Now the 43-year-old is plotting his former side’s downfall as part of the Wallabies’ coaching staff. Australia’s lineout has been extremely shaky over the course of their six-match losing run, but their scrum work has been solid - and that’s in no small part to the influence of Ledesma.
Argentina will be attempting to build on their superb opening 50 minutes against the All Blacks in New Zealand last week - a performance which saw the Pumas hang with the world champions in their own backyard for over half of the contest. Argentina’s big forwards rolled up the park strongly, working well as a unit and recycling the ball effectively. The Pumas even took a 7-0 lead, but New Zealand slowly clawed their way back into the contest to lead 24-19 at half-time. They bagged a penalty goal shortly after half-time but that would be the end of their spirited fight, with the All Blacks running in 33 unanswered points to post a convincing 57-22 victory.
It was a disappointing finish from Argentina, but they proved if they can improve their fitness, they can well and truly hang tough with the best rugby sides in the world. Don’t be surprised if they push the Wallabies early in Perth, but coupled with their travel from New Zealand to Western Australia - and their present struggles with fitness - expect Australia to grind the Pumas down in the second stanza and register a second consecutive win to lift themselves off the bottom of the Rugby Championship ladder.
Margin: Australia 1-12 ($2.90, CrownBet
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