Pumas Roar to Shock Win over Mighty All Blacks

Argentina recorded one of the biggest shock wins in rugby union of all time last week when they beat New Zealand 25-15 in Sydney in the Rugby Championship. It is fair to say that it is not just one of rugby union’s biggest ever shocks, but one of sport in general’s most earth shattering results.

What made the result even more impressive was that it was Argentina’s first international match since the Rugby World Cup, just over 13 months ago. No wonder that coach Mario Ledesma was so delighted, saying after the game: “Unreal, unreal, surreal. We have been through hell and the boys just kept ticking. Just so proud of them.”

The win was the first that the Pumas had recorded over the All Blacks in 30 matches. All Blacks skipper Sam Can acknowledged after the game just how impressive the South Americans had been, describing their defence as “outstanding.”

Can also stated that the New Zealanders had not been “good enough” during a game in which Argentine fly-half Nicolas Sanchez scored all of his team’s points. The number 10 registered a try, a conversion and six penalties.

Ahead of the game, the Pumas released a video showing just how difficult their preparations for the tournament had been, given the restrictions in place due to the global Covid-19 pandemic.  The Pumas’ previous best results against New Zealand had come in 1985, when they recorded a 21-21 draw, and in 2019, when they lost 20-16 in a narrow defeat in Buenos Aries.

It is the first time that the All Blacks have lost consecutive games since 2011. Prior to their defeat to the Pumas, the men from the Land of the Long White Cloud were beaten 24-22 by Australia in Brisbane. Given the Wallbies’ trials and tribulations in recent years, that was another surprise result.

Quite how the New Zealanders will react remains to be seen, but the men in black do not like losing and they will be looking for revenge when they face the Pumas on November 28. Whatever happens, the side looks a shadow of its former self, and coach Ian Foster, who was something of a controversial choice to replace Steve Hansen, is already considerable pressure.

New Zealand have now dropped to number three in the world rankings, behind South Africa and England, their lowest position since 2003. Foster has now won just three of his first five games since taking over from Hansen after the Rugby World Cup.

But his Argentine opposite number Ledesma faced a very different reaction. The former hooker, who represented the Pumas 84 times during his playing career, highlighted that the victory meant even more because of the Covd-19 related crisis unfolding back home in Argentina.

It was 402 days since the Pumas had last played a Test Match, and no professional rugby had been played in the country since March due to Covid restrictions. The players have spent four out of the last eight weeks in quarantine, and even had to eat their meals separately in the Sydney hotel in which they have been staying. It is worth noting that South Africa didn’t enter this Rugby Championship because of a lack of time to prepare properly.

In many ways, the Covid-19 situation may have benefitted the Pumas. When they face the All Blacks in a typical Rugby Championship, they have to face South Africa in South Africa, before flying all the way back to South America to face the Springboks again back home. They must then travel to New Zealand and Australia for away games, before travelling back home again to play those teams in Buenos Aries.

That schedule has left the team shattered and jaded before they face the Aussies and All Blacks at home. This time, there was a more level playing field in terms of the schedule.

But whatever the schedule, this result is a significant milestone in Argentine rugby union. Always something of a sleeping giant, the Argentines have shown that not only are the All Blacks human, but that they themselves are becoming an ever greater threat to the more established teams.

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