Argentina coach Michael Cheika has laughed off suggestions that his in-form Pumas will be favourites when they take on the All Blacks in Hamilton this weekend.
The Pumas top the Rugby Championship standings after handing Australia a record defeat in San Juan three weeks ago and beating the All Blacks for the first time on New Zealand soil in Christchurch last weekend. Cheika, though, reacted with incredulity when a reporter at his team-naming news conference suggested Argentina might be favoured to beat the three-times world champions on Saturday.
“Mate, we’re in New Zealand, like, playing against New Zealand,” he scoffed. “I know you guys like to manoeuvre the story around but we’re about as underdog as you get. The guys that need to believe we can do it is us.”
“We’ve got no expectations on ourselves except for the quality of our play. As in life, good things happen when you work hard and you’re good at your craft.” Cheika largely kept faith with the side that achieved a historic breakthrough against the All Blacks last week, making two changes in the backs and two in the forwards.
In the backline, Lucio Cinti drops to the bench, with Santiago Cordero coming on to the left wing, while Tomas Cubelli replaces Gonzalo Bertranou at scrumhalf. Santiago Grondona will start at blindside flanker in place of Juan Martin Gonzalez, and Guido Petti joins Tomas Lavanini in the starting second row, with Matias Alemanno named among the replacements.
“There were different reasons for all of them, some relating to the competition that we’re having inside of the team and we’re trying to reward training performance as well,” Cheika added. “And also just some things about how we want the team to set up this week with different combinations. It’s been a good week in training and it’s getting harder to pick the team every week.”
With New Zealand now having lost their last three tests on home soil, Cheika said the Pumas can expect a fierce backlash from their wounded hosts at Waikato Stadium. “We know it’ll be difficult,” Cheika said. “But when the challenge is really big or the situation in the game is really tough, we try and thrive in those moments.” Team: 15-Juan Cruz Mallia, 14-Emiliano Boffelli, 13-Matias Moroni, 12-Matias Orlando, 11-Santiago Cordero, 10-Santiago Carreras, 9-Tomas Cubelli, 8-Pablo Matera, 7-Marcos Kremer, 6-Santiago Grondona, 5-Tomas Lavanini, 4-Guido Petti, 3-Joel Sclavi, 2-Julian Montoya (captain), 1-Thomas Gallo
Replacements: 16-Santiago Socino, 17-Mayco Vivas, 18-Eduardo Bello, 19-Matias Alemanno, 20-Juan Martin Gonzalez, 21-Gonzalo Bertranou, 22-Benjamin Urdapilleta, 23-Lucio Cinti.
(This story has not been edited by Devdiscourse staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)