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Michael Cheika predicts ‘blockbuster’ in Hamilton

Pumas head coach Michael Cheika hugs hooker Julian Montoya after beating the All Blacks in Christchurch, but he’s wary of the New Zealand response in Hamilton.

Hannah Peters/Getty Images

Pumas head coach Michael Cheika hugs hooker Julian Montoya after beating the All Blacks in Christchurch, but he’s wary of the New Zealand response in Hamilton.

Argentina coach Michael Cheika predicts a blockbuster in Hamilton as he anticipates a heated response from the All Blacks.

The Pumas lead the Rugby Championship on the back of their historic win in New Zealand last weekend, beating the All Blacks 25-18 in Christchurch.

The sequel in Hamilton has plenty of intrigue surrounding it, mostly about how these patchy All Blacks will answer back.

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Retallick said he enjoyed playing for Hawke’s Bay for the first time in 10 years but would “love” to be back in black.

Historically, the All Blacks respond strongly. That wasn’t the case in the lost series against Ireland in July, another piece of unwanted history for All Blacks coach Ian Foster. But the All Blacks did reply in emphatic fashion to their beating from the Springboks in Mbombela with an outstanding win in Johannesburg.

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Now they are facing the reality of three consecutive home defeats and Cheika is wary.

“It’s going to be a blockbuster, because they’ll be coming with everything,” Cheika warned, though he sees enormous benefits for his team as he continues to build the Pumas towards next year’s World Cup in France.

“It will be a great lesson for us in how to react in those situations,” he added about the intense pressure he expects the All Blacks to bring.

Argentina's head coach Michael Cheika and All Blacks counterpart Ian Foster will continue their rivalry in Fosters' homeland in Hamilton.

Martin Hunter/Photosport

Argentina’s head coach Michael Cheika and All Blacks counterpart Ian Foster will continue their rivalry in Fosters’ homeland in Hamilton.

There’s a series win on the line for the Pumas, as well as a chance to really take real command of the Rugby Championship.

Cheika has been thrilled with the development of his team this year and knows all-important confidence is growing.

“On our road to the World Cup, obviously making some firsts is important,” he said. “Our win against Scotland, the series, our win against Australia … now this.

“It gives you confidence. Self belief is a big issue for us to work on. We haven’t won a lot of games in the Rugby Championship.”

He liked the character his team showed in Christchurch, an ingredient where they decisively edged an All Blacks team that became increasingly flustered as the game wore on.

“One of the big things we have been trying to work on is the game is not perfect. When it gets difficult, or things go against us, don’t worry. That’s the time to stand up and rip into it and enjoy the game because that’s what rugby’s about, being strong in the difficult times,” Cheika said.

“That’s what I want from this team. They’ve got the character to do that, they’ve just got to get used to doing that.”

There is growing anticipation back in Argentina where last weekend’s result was greeted with huge admiration.

La Nacion, a national daily newspaper, felt the Pumas were worthy of their lofty position, as they cast forward to Saturday’s second test.

“The greatest asset that the Pumas have is confidence,” wrote Alejo Miranda.

“In that area, they have a considerable advantage over New Zealand, Australia and South Africa. While the self-esteem of Argentines is at the highest point of the last seven years, that of their rivals is on a downward curve.

“The win against the Wallabies in San Juan, the largest in their history against a Tier 1 team, and the first victory ever achieved in New Zealand are strong expressions of this virtue. And rugby is a mental sport.”

Miranda felt there were still some technical deficiencies to iron out, notably a wobbly scrum, but he described Argentina’s improving defence as “bordering on perfection” in Christchurch.

When they manage to make the tackle an offensive weapon is when they are most dangerous. If the trend continues, they will be a hard nut to crack for anyone.”

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