HAMILTON – New Zealand get the chance to extend their perfect record at the top of The Rugby Championship table when Argentina visit Hamilton today.
The All Blacks racked up bonus-point wins in home and away Tests against Australia in the opening two rounds and sit five points clear of the chasing pack as the halfway mark of the competition approaches.
It will be exactly seven years on Monday since the All Blacks last lost at home – 32-29 to South Africa in the 2009 Tri-Nations – and Los Pumas will have to rip up the history books if they are to end that remarkable run as they have never beaten the All Blacks in 22 previous Tests.
Only points difference separates South Africa and Argentina in second and third place in The Rugby Championship table, Los Pumas pulling level with the Springboks on five points after their famous 26-24 victory over Allister Coetzee’s men in round two.
Australia have yet to register a point but will be looking to set the record straight against the Springboks, who have won just three times away to the Wallabies since the turn of the century.
All Blacks inside centre Ryan Crotty returns from injury as the only change to the New Zealand starting line-up from the second Bledisloe Cup test against Australia a fortnight ago. The All Blacks, on a 13-match winning streak, have opted for consistency with the only other changes coming on the bench.
Anton Lienert-Brown, who impressed on debut in that 29-9 win, is named among the replacements after making way for Crotty at inside centre, while Codie Taylor and Luke Romano provide the cover at hooker and second row respectively.
Injury has forced Los Pumas coach Daniel Hourcade to make three changes to his starting XV – one in the backs and two in the pack.
With Manuel Montero sidelined, Olympian Matias Moroni comes into the side on the right wing. Second-row Guido Petti is tasked with the job of disrupting New Zealand’s peerless lineout – they have yet to lose possession on their own throw in the first two rounds –after coming into the second row as a replacement for Tomás Lavanini.
The other change in the pack sees Javier Ortega Desio step in for Juan Manuel Leguizamón.
– African News Agency