Michael Cheika said he “started crying” after inflicting a record loss on the Wallabies.
The former Australia coach has made a strong start to his tenure at the helm of Los Pumas, beating Scotland in a home series in July and then squaring the two match date with the Wallabies in the Rugby Championship.
Sunday’s 48-17 rout in San Juan was the most points ever scored by the Pumas against the Wallabies and the 31-point margin smashed the previous record of 15 from way back in 1983 (18-3 win in Brisbane).
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It was also a mind-blowing reversal from the 41-26 Wallabies win the week before in Mendoza.
And while he tried to play it down before the tournament, the magnitude of the moment triggered strong and conflicting emotions for Cheika, who coached the Wallabies in 2014-19 and guided them to the 2015 Rugby World Cup final.
“I love these guys, right? They’re my crew now,” Cheika said of the Pumas, who he had worked with as an assistant coach before taking the top job this year.
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“I was up on the last try, cheering. But then I started crying, because I know I probably shouldn’t be doing this. It was a bit confusing for me, personally.”
Argentina is now, incredibly, top of the Rugby Championship ladder after two rounds.
They have never won the tournament after being included in 2012 and only once have they avoided the wooden spoon, in 2015.
“They’re my boys now. That’s my team,” Cheika said.
“I will do everything I can to help them get success and enjoy rugby. They are paying me a lot of respect here and people are believing in the things that we are doing. I have to do everything I can to help them.”
Cheika, who has Pumas legend Felipe Contepomi and former NRL star David Kidwell as his assistants, made some highly effective tactical tweaks for the San Juan rematch.
Argentina kicked the ball just 15 times in the first Test loss.
On Sunday there were 13 kicks in the first half alone with many of them questionable and pursued with vigour.
“Perfect game plan and it’s perfectly executed by Argentina,” Morgan Turinui said on Stan Sport.
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“The contestable stuff has been brilliant. Tactically outplayed, outplayed on effort areas, every little moment of the game. Michael Cheika has found a real recipe for success.”
Next up for Argentina is a an August 27 date with the All Blacks in Christchurch.
Cheika will first take the Pumas to his home city of Sydney for a week of recovery and training in Coogee.
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“I love going to New Zealand to play. There is a thing about rugby over there that is special and there is nothing like being a part of it,” Cheika said.
“It is going to be good going to Australia and having a few days off, and seeing my mum and my brothers and sisters and take the boys for a Leb feed at my mum’s place.
“But I am looking forward to going to New Zealand because it is a great place to go and play rugby.”
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