By Matt Cleary
LOS Pumas of Argentina will return to the scene of their country’s most famous rugby victory when they take on the Wallabies at CommBank Stadium on Saturday July 15 in the only Sydney Test match this year.
It was here in November of 2020 that Argentina beat the famous New Zealand All Blacks, 25-15, securing their country’s first victory – home, away, anywhere – over the Kiwi rugby powerhouse.
Two years later Argentina followed it up with perhaps their greatest victory – a 25-18 win over those same All Blacks, but this time on the Kiwis’ home turf in Christchurch.
That the All Blacks romped to a 53-3 win a week later didn’t diminish the achievement of Los Pumas, their inspiration gleaned from Australian coach Michael Cheika. Simply: the former Waratahs and Wallabies coach, made the Argentine players believe.
And they still do, sitting just behind Australia in eighth position on a crowded World Rugby rankings list.
It won’t have gone unnoticed by Cheika’s fellow Randwick Old Boy, the famously competitive and super-canny man-manager, Eddie Jones.
The Wallabies coach has named a handy squad of youth and experience ahead of the two-Test ‘bracket’ which begins against the Springboks on Saturday 8 July in Pretoria and runs into the Pumas in Parramatta.
An interesting selection is uncapped Tom Hooper, a two-metre tall 22-year-old named to start on the opposite flank to veteran warhorse Michael Hooper (no relation) who’ll run out in his traditional No.7.
Jones told reporters that Hooper the younger impresses him because “he rips in, mate”.
“He had a late start because of injury and his first few games weren’t very impressive and I thought does Stevie [Brumbies coach Stephen Larkham] really know what he’s talking about here?
“But certainly, towards the end of the season, he was an absolute standout,” Jones said.
In the halves Jones has elected to give first dibs to veterans Nic White and Quade Cooper with Tate McDermott and potential debutant Carter Gordon expected to play long minutes in the altitude of Loftus Versfeld.
It would not surprise to see Jones swap this arrangement around come the Sydney Test.
Prop Zane Nonggorr, 21, and lock Richie Arnold, 33, are other likely debutants, while former Melbourne Storm winger Suli Vunivalu will look to add to his one Test dossier.
With a vocal contingent of Pumas fans expected in a crowd upwards of 25,000, CommBank Stadium’s famously sheer seating will provide a brilliant and ‘tight’ match-day atmosphere.
In a World Cup year the Test match is the only chance for Sydneysiders to see the Wallabies ahead of the Rugby World Cup in France that kicks off 8 September.
Tickets are available at Ticketek.
For all match-day information including transport, click here.
The Rugby Championship – Wallabies vs Argentina
Saturday 15 July
6:30pm: Gates Open
7:55pm: Kick Off: The eToro Rugby Championship: Wallabies v Argentina.