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Rugby Union
Argentina earn respect of rugby rivals
The Pumas entered Rugby Championship as the new side and underdogs but they have provided tough challenge for rivals.
Last Modified: 08 Sep 2012 15:17
After wrestling themselves into the tournament, Argentina are now tackling the world's best sides [GETTY]

The challenges are coming thick and fast for Argentina as they continue to show they belong with the southern hemisphere's finest in the Rugby Championship.

The Pumas earned praise after Saturday's 21-5 defeat by the All Blacks in which they held the home side's fast-tempo game at bay until the 66th minute when left wing Julian Savea crossed for New Zealand's first try.

Right wing Cory Jane then crossed in the opposite corner some six minutes later to seal the win and ensure the All Blacks remained top of the table half way through the competition.

"We have to keep on improving because we are playing the best teams in the world and we have to keep working to have a good game"

Pumas coach Santiago Phelan

However, Argentina offered a reality check for the hosts and together with their 16-16 draw against South Africa in Mendoza two weeks ago, they have already made a big impression.

Coach Santiago Phelan refused to get too far ahead of himself though as his side turn their thoughts to a clash with the Wallabies next week on the Gold Coast.

"This game gave us confidence because of the way the players gave 100 percent and that is very important for us," Phelan told reporters.

"We are looking forward to Australia...(but) every game is different.

"We have to keep on improving because we are playing the best teams in the world and we have to keep working to have a good game."

Work ahead

Argentina were admitted to the expanded Tri-Nations this year after intense lobbying, following their third-place finish at the 2007 World Cup, where they beat hosts France twice during the tournament.

Those performances were not one-offs, with the Pumas regularly beating European sides in Argentina, pushing England last year in the World Cup pool phase and stubbornly resisting the All Blacks before losing their quarter-final 33-10.

While Italy are still struggling for consistency 12 years after they entered the Six Nations, Argentina's recent performances have highlighted how dangerous they can, and will be, in the competition.

The All Blacks entered Saturday's match well aware they were unlikely to repeat the 93-8 thrashing they posted last time the two sides clashed in Wellington in 1997, and the game duly showed those one-sided victories are things of the past.

"I wouldn't say it has been easy," Argentina captain Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe said when asked whether they had adapted to regular competition against top quality opposition more easily than the Italians.

"Everyone from the coach, the union, the players, we have done a lot of work to be here," Fernandez Lobbe said.

"We know the level of the opposition in these six games (of the championship) so we prepared according to that.

"We are happy with that but we want to keep on improving.

"Our goal is to match these three teams because we want to get better and make everyone proud of this Argentinian team."

Rugby Championship results: 

September 8th

Westpac Stadium, Wellington
New Zealnd 21 - 5 Argentina 

Subiaco Oval, Perth
Australia 26 - 19 South Africa 

511

Source:
Reuters
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