All Blacks cautiously confident for SF clash vs. Argentina today on TSN4
PARIS (AP) — Within the glut of Rugby World Cup records earned by New Zealand, there’s scope for Argentina to be confident going into their semifinal on Friday.
The All Blacks are three-time champions. They’re not nine-time champions. They don’t win every World Cup.
In semifinals, they have won four but also lost four; to Australia in 1991, France in 1999, Australia again in 2003, and England in 2019.
New Zealand was the favorite before each one of those but that was no help against opposition inspired to reach the final and topple the All Blacks who usually beat them.
Which is why both coaches have been pushing a narrative that the best teams don’t always win the Rugby World Cup; that it’s all about the best team on the day.
The All Blacks proved that by knocking out the world’s best team — Ireland — 28-24 last Saturday with a stunning performance few saw coming.
“There are two teams. Anyone can win,” All Blacks coach Ian Foster said on Thursday. “We are massively respectful of Argentina. We don’t live in the past in terms of past results. Rugby World Cup tournaments are really about the present, it’s about the best team on the night.”
The past has taught the All Blacks not to try and look past Friday, while the Pumas are looking past Friday, the prize of a first final within reach. They don’t want to regret wasting a rare chance.
The Pumas defied the odds themselves on Saturday by beating Wales 29-17 from five behind with 12 minutes to go.
They have logged two wins over New Zealand in the last three years and Michael Cheika, who coached Australia to the 2015 final, has urged them to believe they are a great team that can make the final.
“We have to be clear about what is going to be required when the heat comes on,” Cheika said. “When they come at us or when the battle is on, that is the moment you need to use those experiences (of previously beating New Zealand). That is where that comes in handy because you have felt it before, you have done it before.”
ARGENTINA vs. NEW ZEALAND - 3pm ET on TSN4
(New Zealand leads 33-1-2 overall, 3-0 in RWC)
The Pumas have rebounded from the humbling loss to 14-man England with improving performances beside fan support that has made them feel like they’re home, culminating in overcoming a Wales that prided itself on being an 80-minute team.
In games, the Pumas have generally been slow starters and strong finishers. They have been patient to build and enjoyed the majority of possession and territory, but not been so clinical. The majority of their 17 tries in five games have come from attacking lineouts, while the scrum has been penalized nine times.
Goalkicking has been a strong point: Emiliano Boffelli has 51 points in the tournament and Nicolas Sanchez has not missed a shot, with 11 from 11.
Argentina has six survivors from both of its wins against New Zealand — in 2020 in Sydney and in 2022 in Christchurch — including captain Julian Montoya, halves Gonzalo Bertranou and Santiago Carreras, and flanker Marcos Kremer, who made 26 tackles in Christchurch and leads the team in France with 55, five of them dominant.
“Once you beat them once, perhaps you humanise them more,” assistant coach Felipe Contepomi said of New Zealand. “But the game starts 0-0.”
New Zealand gave a performance against Ireland that was unlike anything they’d done in years. After averaging 14 turnovers in the pool, the All Blacks conceded a total of just three to Ireland. And then they made 226 tackles, their most ever in a World Cup, to hold out.
The last turnover against Ireland was by replacement lock Sam Whitelock, who leads New Zealand with 35 tackles, three dominant, and three breakdown steals. He’s starting on Friday ahead of Brodie Retallick with a chance to reach an unprecedented third final.
New Zealand has 10 survivors from both losses to Argentina, and 12 from the 2019 semifinal defeat to England in Japan.
“There’s plenty of us who have that hurt and scars from 2019,” captain Sam Cane said. “We took a massive step up at the weekend, but what we delivered last week might not be good enough this week, so our job is to prepare so that we can put in a better performance — personally and as a team.”