Argentina beating the All Blacks shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone.
Take the conversations about the time between games and various players coming down with COVID-19 to one side for a moment, the simple fact is that Los Pumas have been knocking on the door of the All Blacks for some time now.
For the critics of the current All Blacks regime, the last two weeks might have been a godsend because it’s appeared to confirm all of those long-held concerns about the status of an All Blacks side coached by Ian Foster and led by Sam Cane.
This might just be the greatest performance of the modern era for Argentina, one that took the All Blacks off-guard and proceeded to blow them off the park at every turn.
And yet, Ian Foster’s men had all the opportunities in the final quarter, squandering all but one of them.
That’s pressure, brought on by an opposition that wasn’t just on an equal footing, but one that played better.
What was evident on Saturday was that the Pumas came out of the sheds absolutely fizzing, and that in itself is nothing new either. They deserve their 25-15 victory over the All Blacks, who were apparently meant to walk in and walk out without managing to break a sweat at Bankwest Stadium.
The question that people should be asking is why were so many rugby pundits so quick to buy into such thinking? Was it because the All Blacks typically come back from a loss and tear the next opposition apart? Maybe, but to rely on that is a little naive.
Prior to kick off on Saturday, it had been widely accepted that Argentina couldn’t come close to putting together a performance of note – it simply wouldn’t be possible after having not played a game in over 400 days. It was almost as if this was to be a glorified training run for the All Blacks and that Los Pumas were to get nothing more out of it other than some well overdue game time.
How wrong those pundits were, but rather than take a step back and look at it from that perspective, the vitriol has gone into hyperdrive, as was astutely pointed out on Twitter by former TAB man Mark Stafford, who subsequently took some vitriol himself.
Wow. The vitriol being aimed at NZ coaches and players is embarrassing.
It’s a game of rugby.
Those of you giving credit to Argentina, I’m with you.
— Mark Stafford (@stafnz) November 14, 2020
Of course, there is a lot to say when it comes to how underwhelming the All Blacks were in this particular encounter, and as lovers of rugby, fans have been rightly annoyed at some of the undeniable facts to come out of the game.
From just a single clean break, one victory at scrum time, to the high amount of ill-discipline that cost the All Blacks yardage and points. There is much to dissect about what went wrong, and this is a conversation made all the more poignant due to a lot of factors that point to the All Blacks being badly coached, and maybe even poorly captained.
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There is merit to all of it and now is probably the time to ask some of those tough questions. Those factors haven’t just appeared since this loss however. Many people feel that Ian Foster was the wrong choice to be the next All Blacks coach, and some of those same people say that Sam Cane being named captain was a questionable decision at best.
But to suggest that the legacy of the black jersey has been tarnished because of that and this subsequent loss to Argentina, a team that has consistently matched the All Blacks but never managed to get over the line until now, feels like a bit of a stretch.
It’s also highly disrespectful to those two men in particular.
Just look at what Cane has done in the All Black jersey – think of the number of turnovers and tackles the 28-year old typically makes on a consistent basis.
Don’t forget, Ian Foster was the assistant coach of that All Blacks side which won the 2015 Rugby World Cup and did a lot under Steve Hansen during their great run of results in that tenure.
You don’t think those two are quietly feeling the pressures themselves? Are they not giving their very best?
Much has been made about the All Blacks not seeming to have a Plan B or Plan C up their sleeves when the ship started to sink against Argentina. This isn’t exactly true either, it’s very hard to implement much change when you’re constantly losing the battle up front and playing with little to no go forward ball.
It would have been great to see the All Blacks forwards run onto the ball more rather than attempting to shift the ball wide and use the likes of Caleb Clarke as a glorified wrecking ball.
That only works when a backline has the space, and the All Blacks had next to no running space in this game. You’ve got to credit Argentina for coming in with the game plan to nullify these key areas, they made Clarke look like a shadow of the greatness he’s shown in recent times for both the Blues and the All Blacks to a latter extent.
Having already faced off against Los Pumas as part of a Rugby Australia XV, a Wallabies star has lifted the lid on how Australia can avoid the same fate as the All Blacks. #Wallabies #TriNations https://t.co/1Dc7yLwHvR
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) November 16, 2020
In the All Blacks midfield, some serious questions need to be asked of Jack Goodhue because right now the 25-year old looks like a player going through the motions, happy to hand the ball off rather than back himself and have a real go.
Likewise for Rieko Ioane, Jordie Barrett, and even at a stretch his older brother Beauden. To the naked eye, the composure looks to be missing and the apparent game plan against Argentina was for these men in particular to try and run their opposition ragged.
It didn’t work, and when the pressure came on near the try line, balls were dropped and passes went awry.
When basic errors are made when opportunities for points knocks, like when Richie Mo’unga missed touch on halftime, the feeling in a team quickly goes from seeing an opportunity that has been executed time and time again both in games and on the training paddock, to one of real deflation.
That will be the overwhelming feeling in the All Blacks camp right now: deflation.
But there will also be a feeling of immense respect for what Argentina managed to do at Bankwest Stadium, because it was against nearly every one of the odds a rugby pundit could possibly imagine.
Sure, it will hurt massively to be on the losing side of that, but it’s also what makes rugby a great measure of character. History shows us that the All Blacks are indeed a team of great character and heart, many rugby fans and pundits alike have been very quick to question those aspects since Saturday, and that is a real shame.
In the wake of their 25-15 win over the All Blacks, Argentina have finally tamed the mountain that they’ve been ascending for quite some time. That’s the story here, and it’s an almighty good one for the game in general.
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