Saturday, September 15, 2012

Australia 23-19 Argentina - what is needed for a Pumas win?

Photo: UAR

Argentina had the game in the bag holding a 19-6 lead after 56 minutes as Juan Martín Hernández landed his third penalty goal of the match. But from there Argentina would not score again while Australia would go over for two converted tries and a penalty to win after Argentina had held the lead for the games first 68 minutes. Scores were 6-3 in Argentina´s favor at the interval after Hernández had landed one penalty more than Berrick Barnes. Argentina took control after Barnes´ second penalty early in the secondhalf as replacement backrower Tomás Leonardí charged down a kick and went over for the first try in th 48th minute. Two minutes latter Argentina were leading by ten points as Hernández broke the line before feeding Juan Imhoff who passed to Julio Farías Cabello. But Australia recovered to scrape home. Argentina can feel nothing but extremely unlucky. 

Australia´s comeback showed one clear difference between the teams - the superiority of the replacements. Argentina has the depth but every time Santigao Phelan goes to the bench to replace a tired player the team seems to drop in level. He must reconsider who are to be his replacements. The option of two props in Cape Town and Wellington but one in Mendoza and the Gold Coast was interesting. Both times when Argentina had a second prop, Phelan used them early. With both starting props leaving before the 60 minute mark. This is, arguably, a waste of a replacement. Juan Figallo has shown to not tire to the same extent as Rodrigo Roncero. As such it is adequate to have one and not two replacements. The player to have is Marcos Ayerza who is world-class and should really be starting. However he had a poor showing against the All Blacks defensively but this was probably a one off performance considering his form for the Leicester Tigers this past season. 

Phelan is happy to have no secondrower on the bench and both Patricio Albacete and Manuel Carizza are proving to be 80 minute performers. This enables Phelan to have two backrowers on the bench and have Julio Farías Cabello move from the the backrow to the secondrow if need be. The policy has worked so far and there is no need to change it for the rest of the tournament. Two backrowers on the bench has been effective but one has been wasted. Tomás Leonardí has been an adequate replacement for Juan Manuel Leguizamón over the past two matches and must be retained. Leonardo Senatore, in contrast has not been used enough and has not been able to bring the same thing to the match as who he has been replacing. Phelan ought to replace him with a player who can contribute more in the final quarter. The youngers, Tomás De La Vega is a strong option. France were well exploited by him in June. 

The scrumhalves are different players.  Nicolás Vergallo has a controlled distribution game and it is effective. Martín Landajo in contrast is a running scrumhalf. The problem that appeared on the Gold Coast was when Landajo slowed things down. He does not have the same kicking game as Vergallo and ought not try to utilize such an approach. The better player to take on New Zealand would be Landajo as Argentina will need to score at least two tries to stand a chance of victory. The chances of La Plata having poor weather conditions like those in Wellington are extremely low. As such the likelihood of starting Vergallo is not strong.

Flyhalf is non-debatable. Juan Martín Hernández is world-class as has been known as far back as 2004. It is only now starting to be known by many fans from the Southern Hemisphere who are not so familiar with European club rugby. Argentina has played without a backup flyhalf due to both Santiago Fernández and Marcelo Bosch starting. This policy however needs to be reconsidered. The strengh of the Pumas squad enables Phelan to have a flyhalf and not a winger on the bench. Nicolás Sánchez ought to be on the bench with Hernández possibly moving to fullback or centre. Similarly, the form of Lucas González Amorosino is too strong for him not to start. Argentina are chasing tries and he is the right player to play fullback. This far Horacio Agulla has been strong on defense but lacking on attack. Juan Imhoff´s performance showed that he has to start. His pace and side-stepping makes him far more dangerous than Agulla. Phelan ought to look at him as a replacement for the next match. He can cover wing, centre and even fullback. 

Another key factor in the loss was goalkicking. While Berrick Barnes was on target to convert both of his country´s tries the same cannot be said of Juan Martín Hernández. El Mago had a stunning game. He tackled more than any of his teammates and did so from flyhalf. He helped create the try of the match as he ran the ball from the deep and fed Juan Imhoff. The match was another to show just how good he is as a playmaker. He has an allround game which lacks one component - goalkicking. Hernández has kicked for Argentina previously, but it has not been common. He had a key role in Argentina´s 2009 win over England but otherwise has tended to not kick the goals. Professionally it is similar. Hernández has kicked for all of Stade Français, Natal Sharks and Racing Métro but it has been the exception rather than the rule. 

Similar things occured at Toulon with Felipe Contepomi usually not being the goalkicker. Instead the responsibility was Jonny Wilkinson´s. French flyhalf François Trinh-Duc is another who has kicked for France and Montpellier but he has usually not been the go to man. Instead the club has done tremendously well with Martín Bustos Moyano kicking goals. The same player is in the Pumas squad but is yet to feature at all. He has not been named in the match day 22 for any of the first four matches. Santiago Phelan must now be seriously considering playing him, especially following the injury to Gonzalo Camacho. 

Argentina have an issue at hooker. Agustín Creevy is the best Puma for the position but hs lineout throwing is not reliable. Aside from lineout he is Argentina´s best in all areas and he ought to start to add to the competitiveness of the forwards. Eusebio Guinãzú is not an 80 minute performer and should not be used as one. 

Suggested 22 for La Plata
15 Lucas González Amorosino (Montpellier, France)
14 Martín Bustos Moyano (Montpellier, France)
13 Marcelo Tristan Bosch (Biarritz, France)
12 Santiago Fernández (Montpellier, France)
11 Juan José Imhoff (Racing Métro, France)
10 Juan Martín Hernández (Racing Métro, France)
9 Martín Landajo (Los Pampas XV)
8 Juan Martín Fernández Lobbe (Toulon, France)
7 Juan Manuel Leguizamón (Lyon OU, France)
6 Julio Farías Cabello (Los Pampas XV)
5 Patricio Albacete (Toulouse, France)
4 Manuel Carizza (no club - released by Biarritz)
3 Juan Figallo (Montpellier, France)
2 Agustín Creevy (Montpellier, France)
1 Rodrigo Roncero (no club - no retire after TRC)

16 Eusebio Guinãzú (no club - released by Biarritz)
17 Marcos Ivan Ayerza (Leicester Tigers, England)
18 Tomás Leonardí (Los Pampas XV)
19 Tomás De La Vega (Los Pampas XV)
20 Nicolás Vergallo (Toulouse, France)
21 Nicolás Sánchez (Bordeaux-Begles, France)
22 Horacio Agulla (Bath, England)


  1. I agree with pretty much all of this.

    For November however, I would like to see Agulla tried at 13, and Tomás Cubelli and Tomás de la Vega promoted into the side.

    Also in 2013, I would like to Montero coached to play 13 during the Vodacom Cup.

  2. Nice write up Paul!

    I also like to think that Hernandez miss from the conversion was also crucial as it could have tied the game or maybe give Argentina some added advantage throughout the the whole time.

    Nevertheless, if there was ever going to be an upset, my prediction was on this one! I think the chance of Pumas crashing the Wallabies party in Argentina is higher then ever.

  3. It's so easy to second guess and be critical behind a key board....what is the hurry anyway ???? Had the Pumas won this game they would have been battling for second place with just one point behind the boks....on their first edition of 4N competitions ????....way harsh.... especially considering how luck Australia was not to loose today....just so we understand what are the expectations....before these matches the Pumas were viewed as something of a the kitchen counter rag for adding bonus points for the other three.... and now that they have accomplished the unthinkable.... equal standing and respect as the fourth musketeer in an elite brotherhood that knows no equal anywhere in the world....really in any sport....instead of congratulating them we simply raise the bar once again and ask ...."hey...why cant you win ?????"....

  4. silly and we are not falling for it....keep in mind it took the wallabies 47 years to win in south africa....2010 in Bloemfontaine....yes we have a depth problem....chocolate por la noticia....ideally we should have at least 60 world class players for this kind of competition....we probably have about 18.... maybe even less....with no professional league of our own and now the added problem of keeping european clubs happy....with many of our players having to negotiate playing time with the Pumas or outright rejecting offers because there is no leeway for them to play for country....seriously you guys are unreal.... and are never happy with anything.... not so unlike the press in argentina....WE ARE PLAYING A VERY SERIOUS COMPETITION WITH HANDICAPS THAT ARE NO JOKE to overcome....lets say we bring in Cubelli for example....for my look the best scrumhalf in Argentina....he is 23 years old....he should be playing for the Waratahs or something like that week in and week out....but no....instead of developing his skills like for example phipps for the Rebels....where is Cubelli now ???? Ok....i think you get my point....just because we are in the competion does not mean we are playin on the same field with the All Blacks the Wallabies...and the Boks....far from a level playing field....and none of this will level out until at least 2015....Currie Cup competition in South Africa should help out big time....even so....until 2015....dont even talk about results like winning an away game at the Gold Coast....or even at home.... against these three teams....I do agree that de la vega even though a pup should be seeing some playing time....but the rest....hell no !!!! keep working long term boys....easy and steady does it....enjoy the process....the heavy lifting for the next three years has already been done....we got plenty of credit in the bank and SANZAR and IRB are delighted with what they have seen these past few tranquilos and work and seed for the future....concentrate on upgrading our inferiores at the club level....and get Sir Graham Henry to draw us up a plan for inculcating Half Back Southern Hemisphere Rugby Culture into our programs....that's where our focus should be....the rest is already so much gravy....WELL DONE PUMAS !!!!

    1. because everytime we step up to the plate....there is the probability....not the possibility....the probability that that day we are getting runned down by a freaking locomotive at full steam that will put 60 points on the happened to Ireland as you know and who at the moment are ranked higher than we are....that's our responsibility....and the second objective is to have a super rugby team based in Argentina....and the third objective is to host rugby world cup relax....sit back and enjoy the show while having your tickets ready stop: PUMAS # 4 ranking in the world !!!! all abooooooard !!!!

  5. Sorry but I think the editor of the post has every right to ask the question in this situation. Any of NZ, Australia or South Africa leading 19-6 with only the last quarter to go would expect to win the game. At the moment it's ok that Argentina is competitive but fans will quickly tire of coming close. Fernandez Lobbe will get sick of hearing gracious "You fought really hard, you must be proud of your team's effort" comments from foreign TV reporters. If Argentinian players and fans accept getting close as success the team will never become a power in this competition. NZ, Australian and South African fans don't accept getting close as good enough and neither should Argentine ones if they want the team to be truly successful. And as far as handicaps go, things favoured Argentina almost as much as they can for an away match when they had an experienced, full-strength team and facing them was a largely inexperienced team without many of its best players because of injury. If anyone was handicapped it was Australia!

    I also think good points are raised about certain players in this post. I am most disappointed in Agulla who was impressive in the 2007 and 2011 RWCs but has really shown nothing so far in this series of games. Also even though Comacho has been one of the best I couldn't believe he couldn't outrun an inside center making his first start for some months after injury. What does that say about the speed of the Puma's wings?

    Agree about the goal-kicking. Not only in this match but Rodriguez (not for the first time) missed important kicks v NZ last week as well. South Africa's missed opportunity against NZ should also be a lesson on goal-kicking.

    The Pumas also have to do a lot more work on their attack from the set piece. On Saturday they had more ball to play with than they had had against NZ and South Africa but lost it after only one or two phases through poor handling or ruck and maul turnovers. Only in counter-attacks and the occasional maul do they look dangerous. The fact that they had I think no 5+ phases with ball in hand is a pretty bad statistic.

    1. Good post.

      Camacho isn't really a winger who's strength is lightning pace and try scoring finishing ability. In fact if you look at the stats, despite playing well, he rarely scores many tries.

      However he is (especially considering his weight) one of the strongest and best defenders in the world in his position, and also can wriggle a few metres here and there.

      Agulla also isn't really the quickest winger, but is solid in defence, and although he looked limited at some points in his career, last season improved to have his best domestic season ever for Leicester, where he was used effectively. However he hasn't seemed to be used as well by Argentina, and has been very quiet, whilst not done anything in particular to let the side down he hasn't done much too special either. Phelan needs to look to see how Leicester used him as to make best use of his abilities.

      Imhoff meanwhile is a different type of winger, he is almost the opposite to Camacho. He has electric pace, can step magnificently of both feet, and is a great finisher with a try scoring record far superior to any other Argentine winger. But he is weak in defence.

      Imhoff is more like a Shane Williams type player who has a great step and can score tries by himself, but isn't the greatest in defence.

      Whilst Camacho is like a Leigh Halfpenny type player, who is a great defender and can wriggle a few metres here and there, but does not have the magical pace and step that Imhoff has, and displayed in helping set up the Pumas second try.

      There is also a youngster called Manuel Montero who is like an Argentine Rougerie, who again offers another type of winger for Argentina to choose from.

      Whilst Martín Bustos Moyano is the goal kicking option, and just a solid player really, okay in most facets of the game, but not special.

      Right now, Phelan is opting to select his winger based on defence rather than try scoring ability. So Imhoff (wrongly in my opinion) is missing out.

  6. Interesting posts...those are for think the things with the brain "in cold"...I'm an argentine fan, I respect the work of Phelan and the players, but I think that they are, for first time, in a competition perhaps more strong than a RWC. Sincerelly, I have not an valid answer to the question of Paul.

    1. The Solution is to get Argentina to host world cup 2023 !!!! That's the solution !!!!

      And also.... way inportante.... an affirmative action program from SANZAR to welcome Argentine players at least into their farm system.... but it would be nice if we could place say.... 10 of our players in Super Argie Puma in every team !!!!

  7. The winning try can when Polota Nau held Marcelo Bosch by the foot so he could not make a tackle.


    1. and a forward pass try


  8. Another solution is to be honest about what we are evaluating with our minds.... and with one another too....

    although some people.... (

    (who probably have never cradled a rugby ball in their arms like a baby and then ran a maniac pattern with it through other players trying to defend) to pretend that it is a handicap to be ranked # 2 in the's a handicap....for example.... to have the support and infrastructure for five ridiculous delta rocket pro teams from by far the most animal rugby pro league in the world....playing week in and week out.... while competing in a major international tournament....where the cream of the pool of a minimun 160 of these players.... gather together to play against a similar set up as they have been doing for 15 years....with New Zealand and South Africa....every freaking they say in my beautiful motherland.... me estas cargando o te haces nomas ????....or maybe you are a functional imbecile for all i know and you are not trying to be insulting and in that case i apologise....

    Who are you guys anyway to be critics of a process that has been ongoing since the 1960's at the very least.... and actually much longer than that.... who are you to be the critic of a coach that has performed so admirably and beyond anyones expectations ????

    (ask Meyer and Deans)

    seriously do you even like the Pumas or are you just trying to cash in on them or what ????....cant figure it out....unless you are here just to throw around noise and distortion into what is otherwise a beautiful intergenerationl sporting project and epic....