Juan Martin Hernandez has warned Argentina to be on guard to face “one of the best players in rugby history” in Matt Giteau.
‘The Magician’ Hernandez will go face-to-face with former Toulon team-mate and fellow playmaker Giteau when Argentina take on Australia in tomorrow’s World Cup semi-final.
Teak-tough Wallabies centre Giteau revealed his softer side in branding Hernandez “the beautiful man” this week, anticipating a seismic challenge in the 12 channel. Hernandez jokingly demurred at Giteau’s compliment, but turned very serious very quickly to outline his opposite number’s varied threats.
“Well, what he said is very kind,” said Hernandez.
“He would call me that at Toulon, just joking, in the changing room, at the beach, it’s just a joke between us.
“I would call him something similar in French. I’m really looking forward to playing against him.
“It’s a big challenge for me to go up against one of the best players rugby has ever had, one of the best players in rugby history.
“His skills are amazing, he can run quickly, he can kick, he can pass, he can take a gap, so it’s going to be different from the game against Ireland in the centres. It’ll be tough.”
Hernandez and Giteau’s mutual admiration society will not last even one second of combat at Twickenham.
Every single attribute Hernandez outlined in Giteau’s game, the 33-year-old Pumas pivot possesses in spades himself. Should both men hit their lofty heights, Sunday will be a contest to behold.
Hernandez believes his centre partner Marcelo Bosch could however hold the key to Argentina claiming a victory that would secure a maiden World Cup final.
Saracens centre Bosch has been restored to the starting line-up after missing the 43-20 quarter-final demolition of Ireland due to a one-week ban for a dangerous tackle.
The 31-year-old leads Argentina’s defensive line, hardly surprising given he excels among Saracens’ much-vaunted “Wolfpack” rearguard cordon.
“Marcelo is a great defender,” Hernandez said. “He’s the one that leads our backline defence.
“Although Matias Moroni did really well against Ireland, Marcelo has great experience and he’s very important for me and for the team because there are many good options out wide for Australia.
“They run many good lines and have many big ball carriers like Folau and Kuridrani, so Marcelo’s very important to make the right decision.”
Argentina boss Daniel Hourcade almost convinced Australia counterpart Michael Cheika to join the Pumas set-up last year. Cheika has since swapped the Waratahs for the Wallabies, but was close to joining Hourcade’s backroom staff before Australia came calling.
The former Leinster boss recruited scrum guru Mario Ledesma to his Waratahs coaching staff thanks to his long-term friendship with Felipe Contepomi. Cheika coached Contepomi at both Leinster and Stade Francais, and the former Pumas fly-half helped him bring Ledesma on board, first to the Waratahs and now the Wallabies.
Hourcade and Cheika worked together when Argentina’s Pampas XV, that play in the Vodacom Cup in South Africa, trained with the Waratahs in Australia in March. Now Hourcade expects a tough encounter with another shrewd tactician.
“Michael is one of the best coaches in the world,” said Hourcade. “Our union wanted him to help us, we were in contact with him last year.
“We were working with the Waratahs at the beginning of the year, and we’ve learned a lot from him. He has really changed the personality of his Australia team. He gives his players a lot of confidence and security, and that really translates well on the field.”
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