NATHAN SHARPE: We’re preparing for a bashing in Argentina
Former Wallabies captain Nathan Sharpe (Image: AAP)
Wallabies captain Nathan Sharpe writes an exclusive guest column for The Roar from Rosario in Argentina, where a bruised Australian side take on the pride of Los Pumas at home in front of a passionate crowd:
“There’s a lot that’s been made about our circumstances after last weekend’s heavy loss in Pretoria and the glut of injuries as we prepare for the last match of the inaugural Rugby Championship.
But as a proud Australian and Wallabies captain, I’m not interested in entertaining excuses with the big challenge of knocking off a gritty Argentina side in their own back yard our sole focus.
We’ve got the character and talent to defy the doubters and prove the guys can dig deep in a hostile environment.
A lot of teams at this stage of the season are battered and bruised.
We’re no different.
Seven players that started the first Test of the year in June against Wales aren’t available and the trip to Pretoria’s Loftus Versfeld was particularly brutal.
It was pretty chaotic, starting with Scott Higginbotham pulling out just before kick-off then Berrick, Coops, Radike and Tatafu all copping knocks.
Although we’re fairly battered, it’s great to see plenty of players that will forge long Wallabies careers exposed to the top level this season.
Michael Hooper has been immense at No.7, Mike Harris had some nice touches in the second half against the Springboks, Sitaleki Timani and Kane Douglas have added grunt to the pack and Nick Phipps has provided plenty of energy at halfback.
It’s great to see my Western Force teammate, the “Honey Badger” Nick Cummins, get a call-up on the wing too. He also reckons he’s pretty handy to have on tour given he thinks he can speak a bit of Spanish.
It’s an incredible stat, but Badger will become the 11th player in 2012 to make his Test debut for the Wallabies.
But that’s the way it is and I’ve been reminding the boys all week about showing character in the face of adversity and puffing the chest out as people line up to write us off.
The change of pace in Argentina is arguably what the guys need after the challenges of the past few weeks.
Rosario, three hours north of Buenos Aires, is best known as the birthplace of Che Guevara and also the home town of Argentinian and Barcelona soccer genius Lionel Messi.
The guys have enjoyed getting out and having a look around town and the locals have been very welcoming.
That wiil change on Saturday night, when the impressive Argentinians will be hoping to bash us around and claim their first scalp of the new four-team tournament.
Despite not yet breaking through for a win over the last few months, they haven’t been intimidated and have pushed all teams hard.
They were unlucky only to draw 16-all with South Africa in their first Test on home soil in Mendoza and even in Wellington the All Blacks only put them away in the last quarter of the match.
Last weekend’s 54-15 loss to New Zealand in La Plata didn’t reflect how tough the Argies were. Although they thrive in the physical battle and suffocate you in defence, Los Pumas showed they can play with flair too. Their early try was a phenomenal effort that went about 70 metres and from touchline to touchline.
And we know as well as any team how spirited the Argies have been in 2012 after sneaking home on the Gold Coast after trailing 19-6 with 20 minutes left. We’ve got plenty of respect for Argentine rugby and they’ve got a very proud history at home.
Few probably know that in the seven games the Wallabies have played in Argentina, each side has won three times to go with a 19-all draw in Buenos Aires in 1987.
Australia’s biggest winning margin on Argentine soil – a 17-6 win in 2002 – proves how plucky the Pumas are at home.
And we know the Pumas like their chances of knocking us off this time and probably can’t believe they’re likely to start as favourites against the No.2-ranked side in the world.
But we’re ready to rip in and ensure Wallabies’ pride is on show for 80 minutes at Estadio Gigante de Arroyito.”
- As told to The Roar. Nathan Sharpe is an ambassador of the Samsung UNITE campaign.
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