BOTH teams have each decided to make seven changes to the starting 15 from their previous match but while the host, All Blacks make theirs to give some second liners more game time.
The decision by the Pumas was forced by injury and also the need to get their game back on track after defeats to the Springboks in the first two rounds.
The All Blacks haven’t had a super season so far, drawing the three-Test series with the Lions and leaking tries to the Wallabies away and at home, with the second match in Dunedin two weeks ago a close call and the winning points coming less than three minutes before the end.
There were uncharacteristic handling errors too in Dunedin on top of other issues in defence.
For the Saturday clash in New Plymouth, coach Steve Hansen has opted to give a second Test to tall and athletic blindside flanker Vaea Fifita and another start - only his ninth in 35 Tests - for T.J. Perenara, and also Luke Romano and Ardie Savea while welcoming back winger Nehe Milner-Skudder who’ll be wearing the black jersey again after almost two years away, mainly due to injury.
There were concerns over the performance of Damian McKenzie despite the pace that he adds while on attack but he gets another chance to start at fullback, after the last two starts there against the Wallabies.
The changes also give another opportunity for powerful centre Ngani Laumape to play only his third Test, albeit off the bench.
The Pumas haven’t had a good 11 months, losing all three Tests in last November’s trip to Britain, followed by two home defeats in June to an England playing with many second and third liners because of the Lions tour to New Zealand and most recently their two Rugby Championship games against the Springbok.
Their time in New Zealand hasn’t been good either, losing all of their 15 Tests against the All Blacks, each by a margin of at least 15 points. During last year’s tournament they lost 57-22 in Hamilton.
At one level below Test rugby, in Super Rugby, their Jaguares, despite comprising the best of their home-based internationals, have not done that much better, winning only 11 games from 30 in two seasons. In the last Super Rugby, the Jaguares did not play against any NZ opposition.
Part of their problem is a result of the decision of their national union not to pick any foreign-based player from last year since the country has a Super Rugby franchise. This has forced the hand of coach Daniel Hourcade to not pick outstanding players like Juan Imhoff and Facundo Isa.
The problem with this policy is that Argentina doesn’t have the kind of depth available in New Zealand, the other country adopting the policy. NZ has five Super Rugby franchises, Argentina only one and that alone limits the number of good players who can play their game at home.
Prior to 2016, a majority if not almost all of the starting 15 for the Pumas were foreign-based.
In the November 2014 game against France, the Pumas started with 10 of those players and in the 2015 Rugby World Cup against Australia, 14 of the starting 15 were foreign-based.
The second game for Saturday between the Wallabies and Springboks is too close to call, given the recent resurgence showed by the visitors, who have so far this year won five Tests in a row.
Australia has named a third debutant in three consecutive Tests, this time including Jordan Uelese on the bench. The Melbourne Rebels player comes into the Test reckoning after having played only a total of 28 minutes of Super Rugby in three matches.
Izack Rodda, the debutant from two weeks ago, has been left out of this weekend’s clash while on the bench again is Curtis Rona, who made his debut three weeks ago.