ALL Blacks coach Steve Hansen has come to the defence of the Pumas, describing them as a physical side, but not a dirty one.
New Zealand and Argentina meet in Hamilton on Saturday night in the latest round of the Rugby Championship, with the Pumas having lost loose forward Leonardo Senatore to a nine-week ban.
Senatore was suspended for biting during his team’s 22-17 defeat to South Africa two weeks ago, while flanker Pablo Matera got off an eye-gouging charge from the same Test.
Hansen says both the Springboks and the Pumas take a highly physical approach into their matches and that’s one of their strengths.
He says when two teams play like that, the level of intensity rises.
“Every now and again people do things that they probably don’t want to do, but in the heat of the battle it happens,” he said.
“I don’t see them as being a dirty team. I think that’s what everyone is trying to imply and I don’t think they are.
“They’re a good rugby side and they’re growing in this competition.”
The All Blacks have never lost to the Pumas, winning 15 of the 16 meetings between the sides.
Their only blemish was a 21-21 draw in Buenos Aires in 1985.
Hansen said the desire to maintain the unbeaten record against the South Americans didn’t make for added pressure.
He said the All Blacks wanted to win every Test, whether it was against opponents they had lost to before or not.
“You can’t allow someone else’s expectations to be greater than yours if you’re in this team,” he said.
“Collectively as a group, we have to have higher expectations than our fans.”