RUGBY NEWS - Australia skipper Michael Hooper Friday called for "a complete performance" in the final Test of the year against a weakened Argentina, who are missing their captain after a row over racist tweets.
Australia blew a golden opportunity to not only beat the Pumas a fortnight ago but put themselves in pole position to win the Tri Nations.
They were leading 15-6 with 19 minutes left, but poor discipline handed Argentina a lifeline which fly-half Nicolas Sanchez grabbed with both hands, nailing three consecutive penalties to draw the game.
It deprived the Wallabies of a vital win and they now need to crush Argentina in Sydney on Saturday by a massive 101 points to replace New Zealand at the top of the table and win the trophy.
Argentina have appeared in disarray this week, with captain Pablo Matera, second row Guido Petti and replacement hooker Santiago Socino first suspended over "discriminatory and xenophobic" tweets and then reinstated. However, all three will miss Saturday's game.
"We want to get both sides of our game to click tomorrow. We've been good in patches in different games throughout the year," said Hooper, whose side has been boosted by the return from injury of fly-half James O'Connor.
"We're looking for a complete performance tomorrow, attack, counter-attack, defensively.
"We want to keep these guys - Sanchez, a great player - to minimal points and we need to be disciplined to do that."
Sanchez has been Argentina's standout player during the rollercoaster tour, which has included coronavirus quarantine, the Pumas' first win over the All Blacks and the racism row.
The fly-half was pivotal during their first-ever victory over the All Blacks and the draw with Australia, scoring all 40 of their points so far.
"We have got to play in smart areas of the field. Sanchez has an amazing boot on him and he did damage us in that last game," said Hooper. "We handed them three-pointers way too easily in the back end.
"We need to utilise smart attacking kicks, be smart around our breakdown decision-making... and we want to grow our set piece as well, so that's going to be a fair battle up front."
The racist tweet scandal has impacted Argentina's preparations with coach Mario Ledesma admitting his players had been "really, really affected".
But Hooper said he expected Argentina to bring their usual passion.
"Some changes there, in terms of their players. But they have a really good squad," he said.
"They're clearly training well against each other during the week. And they'll certainly be up for it, they're a passionate bunch of guys."
With hot, muggy conditions and a possible thunderstorm forecast for the game Hooper, added that "the team that navigates that, will do well on the park".