‘We’re playing a different beast’: Ledesma wary of Kerevi and Wallabies

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‘We’re playing a different beast’: Ledesma wary of Kerevi and Wallabies

By Tom Decent

Argentina coach and former Wallabies assistant Mario Ledesma has identified Samu Kerevi as Australia’s most dangerous strike weapon and believes the men in gold are a “different beast” to last year.

A 30-17 win over South Africa in front of 38,215 fans at Suncorp Stadium on Saturday helped the Wallabies jump from fifth to third on the world rankings, six days after a two-point win against the 2019 World Cup champions.

It was the first time this World Cup cycle Australia has recorded back-to-back wins and they now have a decent chance of making it three on the trot for the first time since 2017.

Inconsistency has plagued the Wallabies in recent years, but they will head into a match against Argentina on Saturday in Townsville as favourites with valuable momentum and confidence.

The Pumas suffered their second loss in as many weeks to the All Blacks on Saturday evening, falling 36-13.

Ledesma, who was Wallabies forwards coach from 2015 to 2017, has a soft spot for the Australians and is adamant they are a far better team than the one Argentina drew with twice in 2020.

Samu Kerevi has been in sublime form for the Wallabies since his return to the Test arena.

Samu Kerevi has been in sublime form for the Wallabies since his return to the Test arena. Credit:Andrew Phan/Wallabies Media

He says the key to their success has been the reintroduction of Kerevi, who left Australian rugby after the World Cup before coming back for an Olympics sevens stint that has progressed to Wallabies honours in the Rugby Championship.

Kerevi’s ability to beat defenders and get over the advantage line, together with an improved offloading game, has the Pumas coach on edge.

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“The most important one is Samu [Kerevi],” Ledesma said. “He makes such a difference. He brings such a physicality and go-forward that he sets up the platform better than the forwards. You can see why they’re setting every play on him from set-piece or as a dump runner. He’s really dominating.”

After another stellar performance, Kerevi likened himself to a battering ram when the team needed momentum from their midfield.

Wallabies captain Michael Hooper is surprised by Ledesma after last year’s Test in Sydney.

Wallabies captain Michael Hooper is surprised by Ledesma after last year’s Test in Sydney. Credit:Stu Walmsley/Rugby Australia

“For myself, it’s about trying to keep it real simple,” Kerevi said. “I tell Quadey when he needs a battering ram, I just step up for him. I try to own that space.”

Of the 15 players who started for the Wallabies on Saturday, only four - Matt Philip, Michael Hooper, Nic White and Marika Koroibete - were in Australia’s XV for the team’s most recent Test against Argentina in December.

The likes of Kerevi, Quade Cooper and Izack Rodda have all come back into the fold after time out of the national setup, with destructive back-rower Sean McMahon also a chance of lining up this week against the Pumas.

“They’ve beaten the world champions twice and I thought they really dominated the game,” Ledesma said. “We’re going to study that really close, but we’re playing a different beast than last year.

“I just think the other players have kept improving and getting those players back [helps]. What we are seeing is a different maturity [with Cooper] and maybe not overplaying his hand. He’s playing much more for the team. He’s had two very good and convincing games. The staff must be really happy to have made that decision at the time.

“[Len] Ikitau is a very good surprise for them too … and everybody knows Taniela [Tupou] and what he can do. He’s just delivering. It was a matter of time.

“I want to congratulate Hoops for the record. He’s been breaking records since forever and he’s always the best on the field. I like to consider him a friend too. Congrats on 112 Tests and the 60 Tests as captain. Great achievement.”

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Just like last year, Ledesma will be helped by former Wallabies coach Michael Cheika, who is working as a consultant for Argentina.

The Pumas have won just one match since they defeated the All Blacks in November. They drew with Wales in July before beating them a week later 33-11.

The Springboks then chalked up 32-12 and 29-10 wins against Argentina in late August before the South Americans suffered big losses to the All Blacks.

“We have had a couple of bad games on the hop,” Ledesma said. “We’re really concentrating on getting better and we’re playing against a team that is really confident.”

Stan Sport is the only place to watch every match of The Rugby Championship continuing this Saturday with the All Blacks v South Africa followed by the Wallabies v Argentina – both matches streaming live, extended and ad-free on Stan Sport from 4:45pm AEST.

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