Cheika’s sharp retort to All Blacks accusation

Pumas coach Michael Cheika has delivered a swift counter-punch to All Blacks rival Ian Foster after he accused Argentina of breakdown dark arts to slow New Zealand ball.

Former Wallabies boss Cheika led the Pumas to their first win over the All Blacks in New Zealand in a rousing 25-18 Rugby Championship victory in Christchurch on Saturday.

Improbably, Argentina lead the Rugby Championship after three rounds while the knives are out again in New Zealand for the beleaguered Foster – who has lost six of his last eight games in charge of the beloved national team.

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The Kiwi coach congratulated Argentina after the historic upset but also pointed the finger at the Pumas’ breakdown tactics and what he saw as inconsistent refereeing from Georgian whistle-blower Nika Amashukeli.

“We were really struggling to get speed of ball against them,” Foster said.

“From my perspective, extremely frustrated with tacklers [not] getting out of the road and giving them access, and sorting them out of not releasing the ball carrier on the ground.

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“That’s an area we are going to have to look at closely, because it was an area we got hammered in the penalty breakdown at critical times. Probably a little bit bemused by some of that.”

Enter Cheika, who is not known for backing down from a fight.

“Well, he would be an expert on it because his team does it all the time, so he should know. Maybe he’s right, I dunno,” Cheika said when made aware of Foster’s comments.

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“I thought New Zealand were OK at the ruck, they recycled a lot of ball quickly. So, I thought we had parity in that area, they got a few steals, we got a few. I thought the ruck work across the whole game was quite good, because there was not a lot of actual opportunities to get on to the ball.”

Cheika then raised the temperature further by crediting Crusaders coach Scott Robertson for taking Pablo Matera’s game to another level.

The outstanding Argentina No.8 was a key man in the Crusaders winning yet another Super Rugby title under Robertson this year.

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The breakdancing, surf loving Robertson – who is currently in Australia on holiday with his wife – is the New Zealand public’s choice to replace Foster as All Blacks coach.

“I think that the Crusaders have made a really huge mark, and Scott Robertson has made a really huge mark on Pablo,” Cheika said.

“He came here to learn more about rugby, didn’t come here for money or anything like that, and it shows the quality of the franchise and the coaching here, he’s come back a heaps better player – mentally and technically.

“I think it would be bittersweet for him, because he’s been proud like it’s his own city.”

The victory at Orangetheory Stadium was not only a first for the Pumas.

It was also Cheika’s first victory as a Test coach against the All Blacks in New Zealand.

He coached he Wallabies 17 times against the All Blacks and all of his three wins came on Australian soil.

Cheika also used a local hero against the All Blacks with his new defense coach David Kidwell, who he wooed over coffee in Coogee.

“To come home to Christchurch – I haven’t been home for three years – and I’ve got some whanau there (in the stands) with a bit of (Pumas) blue, that makes it a bit more special,” Kidwell said.

“I’m a Kiwi at heart, a Maori boy at heart, but I’m Argentinian tonight. I’m really happy for the boys – the muchachos – tonight, they’ve worked really hard and they’re very coachable.’ ‘

The teams square off again in Hamilton in Saturday with another loss potentially enough to end Foster’s tenure.

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