Can Mario Ledesma turn Los Pumas around?

Nobrain Roar Guru

By Nobrain, Nobrain is a Roar Guru

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    The poor results of the Pumas and Jaguares over the last two years led the Argentine Rugby Union (UAR) to make changes in their organisational scheme from the small and young – but important – professional Argentinian rugby that had been in the hands of Daniel Hourcade.

    The first change was made at the beginning of the year, with the entry of Mario Ledesma as Jaguares head coach, replacing Raul ‘Aspirina’ Perez.

    Reflecting on what we saw in Super Rugby 2018, this was very positive in terms of results and also in terms of the professionalism of the players on and off the field.

    A second change was the departure of Los Pumas head coach, Daniel Hourcade, after a very bad performance in the June window that did nothing but confirm what had been coming for over a year – an incoming suitable replacement.

    In the first week of August, Mario Ledesma was announced as the new head coach of the Pumas, having demonstrated the changes he could exercise in Jaguares and considering transferring those changes to the national team.

    It’s too early to tell who will be in charge of the Jaguares next year, but the most noise is around Gonzalo Quesada. The former Puma has played in two World Cups and is the record-holder with 31 converted penalties in 1999.

    As a head coach, he took Stade Francais to the title in the French Top 14 during the 2014-15 season.

    The first match of the Pumas will be on August 18, when they face the Springboks in South Africa.

    This leaves very little time for preparation, taking into account these same players not only played all Super Rugby season, but also will represent Los Pumas in the June window and will need to rest.

    The task of Ledesma and his staff will be to put a competitive team on the turf beyond the results.

    If we are guided by what we saw from the Jaguares, despite the great improvement that we all could see, the task will not be easy since the demand will be different and greater in the Rugby Championship.

    Jaguares head coach Mario Ledesma during the Super Rugby match in 2018.

    (Steve Haag/Gallo Images/Getty Images)

    To start, the team has to improve defensively, because in the last three games they conceded more than 120 points, and many of them very easily. At the international level we know that staying in the match is very complex when you concede more than two tries, and therefore this is the main focus.

    In other words, the plan must be to score points when the team is playing with momentum but to concede few points in the minutes that the opposition regains the upper hand.

    The Jaguares in 2018 showed they have firepower in attack and that when they arrive in the scoring zone they return with points, so the attack isn’t the biggest worry.

    The second aspect is the scrum. The Jaguares finished last in this statistic and have several problems, especially in the first row where, for different reasons, Argentina is short of players and are not looking likely to solve them in the short term.

    The rules of the scrum in Argentine rugby, both for youth and adults, are different from international ones.

    The domestic scrum rules attempt to avoid serious injuries but are also preventing the development of players in positions that we all know are keys to every game.

    If we add a couple of players who emigrated to Europe and some others who are injured, the coaching staff is facing a difficult scenario to solve.

    This is that much of a problem that Mario Ledesma asked the UAR to review the current ruling that prevents players in Europe from playing for Los Pumas and the request was taken into account.

    For extraordinary cases of urgency, requests for exemption will be considered, and the only requests made at the moment are for front rows. Judging by the words of the UAR president, the union will be satisfied and so maybe the scrum will see some improvement.

    The third theme is a recurring one in Los Pumas: how to maintain the intensity of the game for 80 minutes and not to fall down in the final 20.

    The Jaguares have already shown they can play the 80 minutes with intensity – they’ve won games in those final fateful minutes, therefore demonstrating that it isn’t a matter of physical shape.

    Against the Super Rugby teams, the Jaguares bench is competitive and, in some instances, superior to the ones of several teams. But if we look at the benches of the Springboks, the Wallabies, and All Blacks, all comprise starters in their respective teams.

    The possibility for these nations to select players from four or five teams is a huge advantage when it comes to forming a strong bench. The Pumas cannot compete and the solution is not around the corner.

    I think with Ledesma as head coach, we are going to see a team that is a little different from Jaguares in terms of the use of the ball. The attacks will be made from the opposite end of the field and not from everywhere. These attacks will be based on a strong line, which happens to be the set piece that improved most since Ledesma’s arrival.

    If we add to this the intensity, the speed and the possession of the ball, I think we will see a competitive team playing against the other three that will also be testing new things and new players with one eye on the World Cup in Japan in 2019.

    The first match against the Springboks carries with it the possibility of an upset since it is very likely that they will not have the Lions players available as they were involved in the Super Rugby final.

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    The Crowd Says (32)

    • Roar Guru

      August 7th 2018 @ 2:19pm
      The Neutral View From Sweden said | August 7th 2018 @ 2:19pm | ! Report

      Thanks for the update Nobrain.
      I just can’t get my head around that Ledesma is not allowed to pick his strongest squad for the RCH. The lack of depth in the current selection is too obvious. With the improvements that seem to be going on in both the Wallabies and Springboks camps, Los Pumas will struggle to even get a losing bonus point this year.

      The first match against the Springboks carries with it the possibility of an upset since it is very likely that they will not have the Lions players available as they were involved in the Super Rugby final.

      Sorry mate, all the Lions players will be available for the first Test against the Boks.

      • Roar Guru

        August 7th 2018 @ 7:06pm
        Nobrain said | August 7th 2018 @ 7:06pm | ! Report

        Well, this is they way things are and I cannot argue much about it. At least the door was open a little to specific players that can be called from Europe. May in the future it will be wide open. Small steps.

        • August 8th 2018 @ 6:07pm
          Shop said | August 8th 2018 @ 6:07pm | ! Report

          Nicely written NB. I was under the impression the European based players were going to be considered this year, guess not. This is a real problem for SANZAAR because they really have to choose between a strong Pumas in the RC or string Jaguares in SR. Argentina just don’t have the resources to have the same exclusion policies as Aus/NZ.
          I see a huge upheaval in SR on the way and believe it won’t be long before los Pumas are given priority.

          One thing that bugs me every year, which you didn’t mention is the schedule. It is simply unfair that Argentina have to travel to SA first every year, effectively making their travel time double before the matches.

          Looking forward to the game Mendoza in a few weeks time and looks like I’ll be trekking to Salta this year to watch the Wallabies!

          Saludos.

          • Roar Guru

            August 8th 2018 @ 6:39pm
            The Neutral View From Sweden said | August 8th 2018 @ 6:39pm | ! Report

            One thing that bugs me every year, which you didn’t mention is the schedule. It is simply unfair that Argentina have to travel to SA first every year, effectively making their travel time double before the matches.

            Very true. But both Pumas and the Boks have a worse schedule than the AB’s and the Wallys. Remarkable that SANZAAR is using the same unfair schedule year out and year in. Just goes to show what ignorant amateurs they are.

            But hey, next year the Jaguares starts their season at home for the first time (with a whopping three straight home games). And just when you thought there is a light in the tunnel, SANZAAR decided that the Sunwolves gonna start their season at “home” in Hong Kong. Because that is how SANZAAR works, force the weakest team in the comp to play home games away from home so they can get a few extra frequent flyer points…

          • Roar Guru

            August 8th 2018 @ 7:37pm
            Nobrain said | August 8th 2018 @ 7:37pm | ! Report

            Thanks Shop!! It is matter of what is more important for Sanzaar: SR or RCH. I am under the believe that a strong SR team will lead to stronger Pumas. The lack of a second profesional team in a competitive tournament has to be solved to be able to develop more players to compete with Jaguares players over the Pumas spots.
            In another point I a happy that al least next year Jaguares will start the competition here and then travel to SA. May be this a trial to seek different schedules for RCH.

    • Roar Guru

      August 7th 2018 @ 3:07pm
      Machooka said | August 7th 2018 @ 3:07pm | ! Report

      Thanks Nobrain… for a timely update on your Pumas for the upcoming RC games.

      And big congrats to Super Mario on getting the top job to now, essentially, bring some long overdue structure to the Pumas. I’m a big fan of his and know that he will rudder your ship to distant shores with the same no nonsense approach he did with my Tahs. I can only wish him, and you, the best going forward. It won’t happen straight away, but it’s gonna happen. Have faith! 🙂

    • Columnist

      August 7th 2018 @ 3:14pm
      Geoff Parkes said | August 7th 2018 @ 3:14pm | ! Report

      Thanks Nobes. Very interesting read. Good luck to Ledesma.

    • Columnist

      August 7th 2018 @ 4:14pm
      Nicholas Bishop said | August 7th 2018 @ 4:14pm | ! Report

      Good article NB! Ledesma + Quesada is a combination that might succeed long term. In the short term, it is hard to see what they can do to turn things around significantly without access to their European based players (except Sanchez??). If you’re losing comfortably to Wales and Scotland B teams at home, there is a huge distance to be travelled….

      • Roar Guru

        August 7th 2018 @ 7:03pm
        Nobrain said | August 7th 2018 @ 7:03pm | ! Report

        I inow, but things are the way they are . Nicolas Sanchez has a contract with UAR that ends up in December.
        The two props are Figallo and Herrera and uar Is already in negotiations with Saracens and State of France on realising those two players and the amount time that they be on the field. The French club is the most reluctant to access to the petition.

        And yes , Ledesma – Quesada is the most experienced combiination Argentina has out out there.

        • Columnist

          August 7th 2018 @ 7:37pm
          Nicholas Bishop said | August 7th 2018 @ 7:37pm | ! Report

          I think it was Harry who told me that Rassie Erasmus had a lot of trouble getting Bismarck and Frans Steyn released from Montpellier, and he may well have given up on that option…

          Rumours are that Matt Toomua may find negotiating release from Leicester for the WB not the easiest task either.

          • Roar Guru

            August 7th 2018 @ 7:54pm
            Nobrain said | August 7th 2018 @ 7:54pm | ! Report

            The French team paid big money to have Herrara to release earlier his contract with UAR at the time, and that is an obstacle in the negotiation. .

    • Roar Guru

      August 7th 2018 @ 7:40pm
      Kia Kaha said | August 7th 2018 @ 7:40pm | ! Report

      Good stuff, Nobes.

      If Ledesma can tighten up the defence and control discipline, Argentina will be competitive.

      I wonder if there will be a close working relationship with Quesada in terms of working towards a common goal.

      • Roar Guru

        August 7th 2018 @ 7:51pm
        Nobrain said | August 7th 2018 @ 7:51pm | ! Report

        ,, Thanks, KK, I think discipline was one of the big improvement of Jaguares in Ledesmas ‘ s hands. Quesada and Ledesma go way back and are good friends, both understand rugby in the same manner so I do not see a problem there in the near future at least.

        • Roar Guru

          August 7th 2018 @ 8:50pm
          Kia Kaha said | August 7th 2018 @ 8:50pm | ! Report

          Good to hear. That will help continuity in selections and game plan.

    • August 7th 2018 @ 8:46pm
      Mukhtar said | August 7th 2018 @ 8:46pm | ! Report

      If Ledesma can get the team playing with pride, and passion, the supporters will get behind it, and that is all I want. If the national team plays to potential displayed by Jaguares, Argentina will see a turning of the tide in terms of results! Forwards dominating the set piece, backs playing with conviction, intelligence – I’m waiting for the Blue Wave.

      • Roar Guru

        August 7th 2018 @ 8:59pm
        Nobrain said | August 7th 2018 @ 8:59pm | ! Report

        The one thing I am sure is that they will play with pride and pasión!!! That is Mario ‘s trademark!!!

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