What impact will Sir Graham have on Argentinian rugby?
All Blacks rugby coach Graham Henry attends a press conference with the Webb Ellis trophy after his team's Rugby World Cup final win over France at Eden Park, Auckland, New Zealand
It will be interesting to see what impact Sir Graham Henry has on Argentina when they debut in the Rugby Championship early Sunday morning in Cape Town at Newlands.
The former All Black-World Cup winning coach has been mentoring the Pumas over the last few weeks, honing their major skills in scrummaging and mauling.
Sir Graham had a phenomenal record as All Black coach, winning 88 of 103 internationals for an 85.4% success rate.
* His predecessor John Mitchell with 82.1% from 28 Tests.
* Wallaby coach Rod Macqueen with 79.1% from 43.
* All Black John Hart with 75.6% from 41.
* Springbok Nick Mallett with 71.1% from 38.
* So too Englishman Sir Clive Woodward with 71.1% from 83.
Admittedly, Sir Graham had quality “cattle” at his disposal where rugby is a religion in New Zealand. But he still had to get the job done.
And that he did: the Rugby World Cup last year, never lost a Bledisloe Cup series on his watch, won five Tri-Nations tournaments, and thumped the British and Irish Lions 3-zip.
The advent of Argentina as an addition to the Tri-Nations is exciting. But I feel for the players with the huge extra time in the air involved on top of a gruelling and travel weary Super Rugby tournament.
That, unfortunately, goes with the territory.
In advance, it would be fair to say the Pumas will boast the best pack of the four nations. Their whole structure and culture has been built around up front.
That has always been the case.
Remember the massive difference Puma prop Topo Rodriguez made to the Wallaby scrum when he migrated to Australia in 1984. He was instrumental in the Wallabies capturing their one and only Grand Slam of England, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales that year and going on to regain the Bledisloe Cup.
Another Puma prop, Patricio Noriega, did likewise to the Wallaby scrum when he migrated in 1996.
Whether the Puma backs can score enough points in this tournament to be competitive will be the question.
Currently the All Blacks are rightfully ranked number one in the world, with 91.45 points, with the Wallabies second on 87.05, Boks third with 84.87, and the Pumas eighth on 79.25.
But this is the first time, apart from the RWC every four years, they have been in constant elite company. They will improve their standing immeasurably and quickly in the Rugby Championship cauldron.
A lot of attention will be paid to new Boks’ coach, Heyneke Meyer, replacing the wacky but always amusing Peter de Villiers.
While de Villiers was an advocate of running rugby, Meyer is of the old school where power and physicality are predominant. The All Blacks, Wallabies, and Pumas will know they have played against the Boks.
The bruising will be deep and painful.
I’ll leave the Wallabies and All Blacks until tomorrow’s preview. But in the interim, let’s have a look at the ref’s schedule for the men-in-gold this inaugural tournament.
Saturday night will be Irishman Alain Rolland, the following Saturday at Eden Park, Welshman Nigel Owens.
* September 8 in Perth against the Boks – Owens again.
* September 15 at the Gold Coast against Argentina – Englishman Wayne Barnes.
* September 29 at Loftus against the Boks – Rolland again.
* October 6 at Rosario against Argentina – South African Craig Joubert.
* And October 30 at Suncorp for the third Bledisloe Cup clash – Joubert again.
Kiwi-born Steve Walsh will be Australia’s only referee on duty when he controls the Argentine clash with the Boks at Mendoza on Saturday week.
So strap yourselves in folks, this is going to be rugby bonanza.
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