Pumas aren’t toothless tigers

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By Shop, Shop is a Roar Guru

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    While many people may have been surprised with the failure of South Africa to beat Argentina in Mendoza, I certainly wasn’t.

    Of course history was firmly on the Boks’ side, having won all of their 13 previous encounters. However, if there was a game for the Pumas to really target in the Rugby Championship, it was this one.

    South Africa at home is a difficult task for even the All Blacks and the Pumas first outing at Newlands was always going to be tough. A tour of New Zealand and then Australia is also going to be difficult for a team that is not used to the grind of travel, unlike the other three sides who all play in the Super competition.

    Even though the last two games are at home, they could also prove difficult as it is likely injuries and fatigue will set in for a side which has never before had to keep such intensity for so long (the World cup by nature isn’t as gruelling as the Ruby Championship). So it made sense to plan an ambush in Mendoza and most would agree the Pumas were unlucky not to have won.

    Sure the Boks couldn’t have played much worse, but the intensity of the crowd, the occasion and a well prepared Argentine side with a simple but good game plan, caused an upset draw. Given the result, I was surprised that not more was written about it among the Roar regulars, so I decided to start my ‘Roar career’ writing about the prospects of the Pumas in the Rugby Championship.

    While it definitely has given a little more cultural spice to the old tri-nations format, many would doubt the realistic chances of the new team. But there are a few things that the All Blacks and the Wallabies should be wary of before taking on Argentina this year.

    Firstly, an important prerequisite of SANZAR for entry was that the best players be available. 23 of the Argentina squad play for French clubs, four in Britain and seven in Argentina. In the past, the Pumas have often presented teams without their best players due to commitments in Europe. Sometimes they have even relied completely on their locally based players, who are still amateur. This side is the best that Argentina can field.

    Secondly, the preparation is different. The Pumas are used to being thrown together at the last minute before Test matches (except in World Cup years), because they are scattered throughout the French and British clubs. This year they had weeks together at a training camp in the USA before starting their campaign, so combinations should be much more familiar.

    Thirdly, they have something to prove. Being here since 2004, I’ve seen rugby grow as a sport immensely, both in terms of player involvement and media coverage. The team have been very well promoted and I’d go out on a limb to say it has grown to be the second most popular sport in Argentina (of course, to soccer).

    The players have a real sense that they are not just representing their country, but the future of rugby in South America. There was a long huddle after the game in Mendoza and some very stern faces, which suggests a very passionate and serious attitude to the opportunity they have until SANZAR reviews the four nation comp (I think in 2015). I wish the Wallabies could show this sort of unity after their performances!

    Fourthly, home ground advantage. Due to geography and the European based players (again!), the Pumas rarely hosted full-scale internationals in Argentina. The crowd here are ruthless. Nowhere else in the rugby world have I witnessed the chanting, whistling and sound of horns so loud – during opposition shots at goal. It was enough to put Steyne off in Mendoza so, Dan Carter, be prepared!

    Lastly, they have world-class players. While they might not be household names in South Africa, New Zealand or Australia, players such as Hernandez, Roncero, Albacete, Leguizamon and Agulla are all proven and experienced campaigners at the highest level. They form the core that has given other, less experienced players a sense of calm in this toughest of competitions.

    So, where to from here? I believe most true rugby supporters would like to see Argentina do well but even the most optimistic Puma fan would struggle to put his hard earned on an upset win in Wellington or La Plata. However a win against a rudderless Wallabies on the Gold Coast and especially Rosario now doesn’t seem so far-fetched.

    The stated aim of the impressive no. 8 and captain Fernandez Lobbe was not to be too concerned with the results of their inaugural year of the Rugby Championship, but to ensure that throughout the fixture list they keep on improving, to set a base for what will hopefully be a long involvement in this Southern Hemisphere competition.

    Perhaps after their draw with the Springboks, the bar has been raised a little higher than to just be competitive. We may not see an upset win, I’m just saying don’t be too surprised if it happens.

    On a side note, anyone planning to visit Argentina for the rugby should research the currency rates. There is an official rate and black market rate for pesos. Rugby has a promising future here, the economy does not!

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    The Crowd Says (53)

    • September 2nd 2012 @ 7:35am
      Tigranes said | September 2nd 2012 @ 7:35am | ! Report

      I would have thought the Pumasl would have targeted the games against the Wallabies as their best chances for wins this season.

      • September 2nd 2012 @ 8:10am
        Shop said | September 2nd 2012 @ 8:10am | ! Report

        If the Wallabies visited Argentina first I’d day yes, but because their home match against Oz is the last of the tournament I’d say the Pumas squad will be pretty stretched by then.

    • September 2nd 2012 @ 8:13am
      patonga said | September 2nd 2012 @ 8:13am | ! Report

      Yes pumas scum will smash the wallabies… and seeing Deans is great at breaking records,, we will probably lose to them to make history….

      • September 2nd 2012 @ 1:46pm
        Justin2 said | September 2nd 2012 @ 1:46pm | ! Report

        Weve lost to them 4 times, no history to be made…

        • September 2nd 2012 @ 1:56pm
          Jutsie said | September 2nd 2012 @ 1:56pm | ! Report

          Yeah I think I remember losing to them in 97, was one of greg smith’s last games as coach if i recall correctly.

          • September 2nd 2012 @ 2:07pm
            Justin2 said | September 2nd 2012 @ 2:07pm | ! Report

            We lost in 83 in Brisbane with Hugo Porta kicking them from everywhere! I saw them v QLD the week before or after asa a little fella, Porta’s boot was incredible.

          • September 2nd 2012 @ 2:43pm
            formeropenside said | September 2nd 2012 @ 2:43pm | ! Report

            Macqueen’s first tour I think, actually.

            • September 2nd 2012 @ 3:43pm
              Jutsie said | September 2nd 2012 @ 3:43pm | ! Report

              oh was it? So did smith get the can after the 1997 tri nations?

              • September 3rd 2012 @ 5:49am
                Shop said | September 3rd 2012 @ 5:49am | ! Report

                Yes, it was one of the first games as MacQueen as coach. I don’t recall him losing to Samoa, Scotland (x2) or a RWC pool match though…

      • September 2nd 2012 @ 10:34pm
        HardcorePrawn said | September 2nd 2012 @ 10:34pm | ! Report

        Pumas Scum? That seems a bit harsh, are you Brazilian or Uruguayan Patonga? Why the dislike for the Argentines?

        • September 2nd 2012 @ 11:33pm
          Uncle Oswald said | September 2nd 2012 @ 11:33pm | ! Report

          I think he meant scrum.

          • September 2nd 2012 @ 11:39pm
            HardcorePrawn said | September 2nd 2012 @ 11:39pm | ! Report

            Ah, that would explain it… Thanks.

    • September 2nd 2012 @ 8:27am
      Red Block said | September 2nd 2012 @ 8:27am | ! Report

      How long before the French clubs, where the star Pumas play, get jack of having their players return bruised and battered?

      It won’t be long until they stop signing Argy players and then the other RC nations will have to foot the bill.

      Then it will be a real test of their commitment to a Southern championship.

      BTW let’s hope the Wallabies play smart against the Argies and move the ball. Otherwise Dingo might end up at the Waratahs.

      A perfect fit?

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      • September 2nd 2012 @ 7:59pm
        Sircoolalot said | September 2nd 2012 @ 7:59pm | ! Report

        Agreed this will be very interesting.

        • September 3rd 2012 @ 5:54am
          Shop said | September 3rd 2012 @ 5:54am | ! Report

          It has already started. I think Agulla (winger in 2007 RWC), was denied a contract extension with Leicester because of the Pumas involvement in the RC. It should really be seen as an opportunity to allow some of the Argies to play in Super rugby – especially Australia.

          • September 4th 2012 @ 2:21am
            Ben.S said | September 4th 2012 @ 2:21am | ! Report

            I never read that officially anywhere. In any case, Agulla found a new club immediately and the Tigers brought in three English wingers, so perhaps there was more to it than the RC? It hasn’t been a problem for Ayerza.

            • September 4th 2012 @ 2:43am
              Shop said | September 4th 2012 @ 2:43am | ! Report

              You could be right. My source on Agulla wasn’t exactly concrete. Still though, RB makes a good point about the Argies becoming less attractive to European clubs now that they have to play tests outside the IRB window.

              I’d still like to see Australia help out more. A few of the Super franchises would really benefit from some “Argie intervention”, especially at scrum time.

              • September 4th 2012 @ 2:56am
                Ben.S said | September 4th 2012 @ 2:56am | ! Report

                I agree Argentine players are probably less attractive because not only do they miss the start of the season in England and France, but their pre-season conditioning would have to be tailored differently. Tbh, it’s probably more of a French problem, as not too many Argentines play in England.

    • September 2nd 2012 @ 8:52am
      Upriver said | September 2nd 2012 @ 8:52am | ! Report

      A major factor that will prevent the Pumas from ever having any likelihood of winning the Rugby Championship is their entrenched 10 man playing style. Hugo Porta got the ball rolling (bad pun) and then the exodus of Argentine players to Italy in the 80s and 90s to make a living (for which they received a lifelong ban from the Pumas) meant limited resources back home to field a team. So play it safe.

      As an aside Italy play a similar style to Los Pumas so imagine if it’d been Pacific Islanders teaching Azzurri how to play. Where was your influence, Campo?

      So the Argentine forwards will always make it tough, their backs will tackle tenaciously and their kicker will nail anything within 50ms. If the Wallaby wingers can’t score tries in this comp then even less likliehood for his Argie counterpart.

      • September 3rd 2012 @ 6:21am
        Shop said | September 3rd 2012 @ 6:21am | ! Report

        The Pumas understand thos and are trying to play a more expansive game. They still need to stick to thier strengths though…

    • September 2nd 2012 @ 9:17am
      Worlds biggest said | September 2nd 2012 @ 9:17am | ! Report

      Great piece Shop and valuable insights from our Argentinian correspondent ! I would love to eventually see one or two Super teams based in Argentina. Certainly the Wallaby game at home will be there targeted must win game. They will push the Wallaies all the way at Skilled Park too.

      • September 3rd 2012 @ 6:10am
        Shop said | September 3rd 2012 @ 6:10am | ! Report

        Thanks WB. Rugby in Argentina is definitely alive and kicking.
        I hear that Gen Y is perhaps a factor in the decline of Oz rugby at present. Changes in the ARU are needed.

    • September 2nd 2012 @ 9:23am
      tc said | September 2nd 2012 @ 9:23am | ! Report

      Shop there is only one option to the player issue ,when 2016 rolls around Argentina should have two teams in Super Rugby along with the USA and Canada. A conference out of the America’s is a no brainier if the economics add up ,and to be honest I can’t see any downside to an Americas conference as long as there’s a SANZAR wide draft of say five players to even up all the teams.

      • September 2nd 2012 @ 9:29am
        johnnoo said | September 2nd 2012 @ 9:29am | ! Report

        tc i used to think it will happen, but now i think it will never happen . I just can’t see it happening. What may happen i super rugby americas. Teams from USA/Canada/argentina can do it alone.

        -Travel costs and travel time to much . player welfare will become too much of an issue. And there comes a point i think with super rugby , less is more. You can only have so many countries or continents before it comes meaningless.

        -Europe champions league is different as it is 1 continent.

      • September 2nd 2012 @ 10:43am
        Football United said | September 2nd 2012 @ 10:43am | ! Report

        South America, and Argentina, need their own competition FIRST before any involvement in Super Rugby. Lessons should be learnt from the success of Japan’s young Top League and the failure of Australia’s transition to Professionalism where the focus should be build from the ground up, not top down. Development structures, academies, player retention and a league that can extend beyond Buenos Aires should be the focus of Argentine Rugby, not some far fetched idea of joining a competition that is mostly played ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE WORLD.

        • September 2nd 2012 @ 8:00pm
          Sircoolalot said | September 2nd 2012 @ 8:00pm | ! Report

          Good points there

        • September 3rd 2012 @ 6:02am
          Shop said | September 3rd 2012 @ 6:02am | ! Report

          Agreed, but Argentine rugby at grass roots has never been stronger. I spoke to an opposing coach today and he was telling me that there is quite a number of kids defecting from soccer to rugby these days. Would never have happened 20 years ago.

        • September 3rd 2012 @ 6:12am
          Shop said | September 3rd 2012 @ 6:12am | ! Report

          This year there was a provincial comp started that involved teams from Uruguay and Chile also. Could be the way forward.

          • September 3rd 2012 @ 2:42pm
            Sircoolalot said | September 3rd 2012 @ 2:42pm | ! Report

            Maybe even a Heineken Cup style tournament with the best teams from the US and Canada!

            • September 4th 2012 @ 6:31pm
              atlas said | September 4th 2012 @ 6:31pm | ! Report

              ^ October this year – thanks to the IRB
              note it is not the Pumas but Jaguars, and a USA Selection rather than the Eagles
              IRB Americas Rugby Championship to be played in Canada
              October 12 USA v Argentina Jaguars and Canada v Uruguay
              Round 2: Uruguay v Argentina Jaguars and Canada v USA Selection.
              Round 3: Uruguay v USA Selection and Canada v Argentina Jaguars.

      • September 4th 2012 @ 6:35pm
        atlas said | September 4th 2012 @ 6:35pm | ! Report

        can’t happen – note it took the Pumas 34 hours to get to Auckland this week, then another flight to Wellington.
        Think about v Highlanders in Dunedin – adding another wait and flight then hour by bus from airport. And same for NZ teams to get to Argentina – depending on day of the week it can take 60 hours due to enforced stopover – Aerolineas Argentinas no longer do direct flights.

        • September 4th 2012 @ 11:21pm
          Shop said | September 4th 2012 @ 11:21pm | ! Report

          Aerolineas is a complete disaster. Delays and cancelations are the norm. LAN fly direct from Santiago de Chile and it is a 14 hours flight to Auckland. QANTAS fly direct to from Sydney to Santiago which is a 12 or 14 flight (depending on the direction). I doubt the Wallabies or All Blacks will risk going cheap with Aerolineas.

          I suppose the Wallabies will fly from South Africa anyway?

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