AP – Inspired by Jonny Wilkinson, Argentine sharp-shooter Nicolas Sanchez is hoping this is his time to break Australian hearts at a Rugby World Cup.
With 26 goals from 30 attempts off the tee so far, Sanchez boasts 74 points for the tournament heading into Sunday’s semi-final at Twickenham.
But the Pumas fly-half is looking to punish the Wallabies for every infringement, knowing he can’t afford to spurn a single chance if he’s to pilot Argentina into a World Cup final for the first time.
Sanchez says it’s his job to turn any Pumas penalties into three points every time, just as Wilkinson had a habit of doing against the Wallabies in World Cups past.
“It is important to get as close to 100 per cent as possible,” Sanchez said.
“I will have to have the right mentality when I’m kicking because the match could come down to one or two points.”
The Pumas need not worry; they have as reliable a kicker as there is in the tournament.
He was almost flawless in the 43-20 quarter-final rout of Ireland last weekend, landing nine out of 10 – his one miss hitting the post in a 23-point haul.
“I am pleased with my form, and am trying to stay relaxed and quiet, trying to think about the team and not about my performance,” Sanchez said.
“Nerves are inevitable, but I will try to stay calm, not let the nerves get to me, and ignore the pressure.”
Sanchez said he learnt from the best while at Toulon, picking the brains of Wilkinson, England’s hero in the 2003 World Cup final who returned to haunt Australia in the 2007 quarter-finals in Marseille, and Wallabies midfield star Matt Giteau.
“Giteau is a world-class player and I learned so much from him even though I didn’t have the chance to play a lot with him because he was injured so much,” he said.
“He is a fantastic player and a great decision-maker in attack, and he will be a key player this weekend.
“When people ask me: ‘Who is the greatest player ever?’ I say Wilkinson.
“He is a legend and I tried to take advantage of his knowledge as much as possible.
“Wilkinson worked with me on my kicking and made me focus on the details.
“He would also talk in great length about the mentality you need to succeed as a kicker. It was something he told us to spend a lot of time focusing on.”