Saturday, August 18, 2012

Argentina fail to impress - What went wrong?

Hernández and Steyn post match
Crédito: Rodrigo Vergara - UAR

The historical debut of Los Pumas in The Rugby Championship saw a team playing from the heart but a team that failed to play as good as it can. The Springboks completed a 27-6 win in Cape Town scoring three tries to nil and deserving the win. The scoreline is not an accurate indication of the match as the teams were quite evenly matched in most areas. Argentina´ lineouts issues of recent years vanished as Eusebio Guiñazú had an accurate match finding the jumpers. This was notable because Argentina used bothe secondrowers and all three starting backrowers as lineout jumpers. Both teams were penalized at scrum time but both won their own ball cleanly with Santiago Phelan getting a good scrum throughout the match even when he changed both props for the final quarter. The distribution to the backs was clean too. All in all the set piece was a success. 

The result, from a historical standpoint was good in terms of defense but bad in terms of attack. Leading into this match the average score had been South Africa 42-21 Argentina. This is as good as anything to pinpoint what Los Pumas were unable to do at Newlands Stadium. On the one hand Argentina won a battle as the home team scored three tries which is not enough to collect a bonus point. On the other hand it is worrying that the efforts of changing the style of play that involved employing Graham Henry did not see tries. here lies the major problem to have emerged from the match. Los Pumas tries hard but the team actually did not really come close to scoring. 

One thing that was clear early in the secondhalf was the goalkicking. Marcelo Bosch missed a long-range penalty and then Juan Martín Hernández missed two. They were all in a small space of several minutes with the South Americans clearly outplaying the Springboks. At that stage the score was 20-6 and a penalty could have made a significant difference. Phelan may need to explore a different goalkicking option but based on this match alone it was not a significant factor contributing to the loss. But, really Argentina let itself down in this period of the match as it should have scored a try. Los Pumas were advancing upfield with several impressive rolling mauls that saw the team move over fifteen metres towards the Springbok´ try line. 

Phelan will need to change some of the players he has playing if he wants his game plan to succeed. It appeared that his selection of Gonzalo Camacho over Juan Imhoff was bang on the money as Camacho was the best winger on the field, if not the overall best player. His partner, Horacio Agulla was not able to transform hsi Leicester Tigers form today and this could well need reviewing as he was simply not able to fit into the game plan adequately enough. The 10-12 combination of Juan Martín Hernández and Santiago Fernández worked well and both looked to actually have the better of their opposite players. Marcelo Bosch at 13 had a quiet match, though and this is where Imhoff and Agulla come into consideration. Agulla has the size, skills, experience and speed to deliver as an international outside centre and he should be serioulsy considered to start in this position next weekend. Imhoff would then start on the left wing, and, crucially, he happens to be a natural left winger. 

All three of the South African tries can be described as soft scores. None were the results of substantial period of attacking play. They were not constructed by phases at all. When South Africa did actually have sustained periods of attack on or close to the Pumas tryline they were unable to score. Argentina held off by always winning a penalty or forcing a Springbok handling error. South Africa won the battle in broken play with two of its three tries being scored in this manner. It could well suggest that Argentina had the wrong players in the backrow. It is crucial that backrowers are able to win the battle of broken play and today Argentina was not able to do so. Juan Martín Fernández Lobbe was a standout performer but neither Alvaro Galindo nor Julio Farías Cabello appeared to have the required pace to excell in this area of play. One, or both should be replaced for the return test in Mendoza. 

Galindo was outplayed by Willem Alberts who was South Africa´ best player. Tomás Leonardí replaced Galindo in the secondhalf and did make a difference in attack and defense. He should now be used over Galindo. Farías Cabello had a good match, he just lacked the required pace and this is key. He deserves to start again but if Juan Manuel Leguizamón is fit and avaliable then Farías Cabello should miss out with Leonardí and Leguizamón joining Fernández Lobbe in the starting lineup. The one player, however, who could make a difference in the backrow to clean up the issues of broken play is Tomás De La Vega. He should be on the bench or starting in Mendoza. 

Phelan is likely to continue with having three frontrowers on the bench and this should not actually be an issue. It will mean only two backs with one scrumhalf and one utility back. He may wish to start Martín Landajo over Nicolás Vergallo due to Vergallo´ restricted running game. He had a fine match at Newlands but his opposite, François Hougaard contributed more due to his running game. Martín Rodríguez Gurruchaga would join the scrumhalf on the bench again unless Phelan wishes to pursue the option or Agulla playing as a centre. This could see Marcelo Bosch drop to the bench. 

Of the frontrowers Juan Figallo was clearly the better of the two Pumas tighthead props and will certainly retain the number 3 shirt. Rodrigo Roncero was good at loosehead prop too but Marcos Ayerza appeared to be slightly better and they should be switched around. Agustín Creevy will not be ready for the Mendoza test which is a major concern but Guiñazú did not put a foot wrong in Cape Town. Creevy is simply a different kind of hooker. His mobility adds a lot to Los Pumas. 

Suggested lineup for Mendoza
1 Marcos Ayerza (Leicester Tigers, England)
2 Eusebio Guiñazú (unattached)
3 Juan Figallo (Montpellier, France)
4 Manuel Carizza (Biarritz, France)
5 Patricio Albacete (Toulouse, France)
6 Tomás Leonardí (Los Pampas XV)
7 Juan Manuel Leguizamón (Lyon, France)
8 Juan Martín Fernández Lobbe (Toulon, France)
9 Martín Landajo (Los Pampas XV)
10 Juan Martín Hernández (Racing Métro, France)
11 Juan Imhoff (Racing Métro, France)
12 Santiago Fernández (Montpellier, France)
13 Horacio Agulla (Bath, England)
14 Gonzalo Camacho (Exeter Chiefs, England)
15 Lucas González Amorosino (Montpellier, France)

16 Bruno Postiglini (Los Pampas XV)
17 Rodrigo Roncero (Unattached)
18 Juan Pablo Orlandi (Racing Métro, France)
19 Julio Farías Cabello (Los Pampas XV)
20 Tomás De La Vega (Los Pampas XV)
21 Nicolás Vergallo (Toulouse, France)
22 Marcelo Bosch (Biarritz, France)


  1. Not the best I would’ve expect from Los Pumas but clearly the lack of playing in a regularly together despite having many top professionals in Europe was evidence.

    It can only get better from here as I believe this is the platform which they can build on and create more great things to come.

  2. The selection of Camacho over Imhoff was not "bang on the money" at all.

    Although Camacho had a good game, Imhoff is the much better player with much more ability so should have been starting.

    I think the Pumas need to select some fitter players in the forwards. Some of them looked off the pace and conceded penalties to try and slow it down to their pace.

    Farías Cabello was decent last year, but I think the Pumas need a fitter player this year. Ayerza should replace Roncero.

    I think Bosch is a 12 not a 13. I think the Pumas should look for alternatives at 13, but unfortunately Phelan wasn't creative enough to try any experiments there in the previous matches.

    I also noticed Agulla seems to have a problem with the high ball throughout this match.

    1. Perhaps Imhoff could go on the other wing?

      Personally I thought Camacho was one of Argentina's best players in Cape Town.

      As for fitness, that is a concern which has been noted by many (and I have made the same point on my blog).

      It was always going to be tough for Argentina in their first match in the Rugby Championship. With a little more composure in Mendoza, they may fare better though. I think some were a little overawed by the occasion.

      As for the centres...Gonzalo Tiesi would normally play a part no? The two centres are in reality 10's being played out of position and I think that lack of physicality showed against the Boks.

  3. Camacho was brillant vs the springboks, he was the best puma on the field. He was just electric with ball in hand and a great tackler. Putting him out for the next games would be a big mistake.
    if i were Phelan, i'd put Imhoff at 11 and Camacho at 14, Agulla at 13 and Rodriguez at 12.
    For Amorosino the pressure of the 1st game seemed too big for him no doubt he will be better for the 2nd.
    Chelo Bosch is neither a 13 nor a 12 but a 10, and what a 10 he would be if only we gave him his luck here!
    Let me have some doubts about Santiago Fernandez for this kind of competition. He is fit for games vs european teams as he is safe, but he is too safe and slow for playing vs teams such as blacks, boks and wallabies.We need to take some risks. Here we need somebody that can tear the defense and break the line, and SFernandez isn't this one, Gurruchaga would be the man here.

    1. There were a lot of good signs from Argentina. Juan Martin Hernandez is a heck of a player. Sometimes he is too far ahead of the rest of his team. There was the odd inside ball and wide flat pass that his team mates weren’t expecting.

      When they get onto his wave length then Argentina will be a big threat, particularly at home. They were not outclassed at the weekend and could certainly beat South Africa.

  4. Short and sweet.

    You can not defend for 80 minutes and then offer nothing in attack