Sunday, October 7, 2012

Los Pumas Looking to November

Photo: UAR
Rosario full for Los Pumas v Wallabies
The match was not the greatest but the occassion was another to underline to credentials of Argentina to host Rugby World Cup 2023. Like in the Estadio Unico in La Plata seven days earlier the Gigante de Arroyito in Rosario was full. In contrast South Africa did not have a capacity crowd for its matches against the same teams over the past two Saturday´s. Argentina did well in attracting crowds for all three of its home matches. Mendoza was not full for Argentina v South Africa but it was large. When Los Pumas played in Cape Town Newlands was not full nor was Wellington or the Gold Coast as New Zealand and Australia hosted Argentina. As such of the four teams Argentina succeeded in marketing its matches more than the others. It also did well for its two home matches v France in June in Córdoba and Tucumán. The one exception being the low turnout for the match against Italy in San Juan. The choice of venues for 2013 will be interesting with Argentina to host England for a test series in June before hosting Australia, New Zealand and South Africa in The Rugby Championship. 

Los Pumas tried hard last night in Rosario but did not have a strong performance. Australia was the superior side as the teams scored one try reach. Wet conditions did not help as both teams attended to play with width but knock-on´s were common throughout the contest. Both teams also gave away too many penalties with referee Craig Joubert leaving a sour taste in the mouths of many. There were countless social networks loaded with criticisms of the South African´s performance. The finger was pointed at him not allowing the game to flow at all. He certainly left his mark early with a yellow card to Patricio Albacete shortly after the end of the first quarter. Albacete was deemed to be playing the ball on the ground and Joubert ruled that Los Pumas had been doing the same thing all match. The loss of Albacete did not change the game at all. Both teams continued to be penalized. But neither the referee nor the conditions should be held accountable for this match. It was two teams fighting hard to get a win after not having achieved the desired results in earlier matches. 

In terms of statistics the teams were quite evenly split. The top tackler was Juan Manuel Leguizamón who hade 13 tackles despite being replaced before the 50th minute. Juan Martín Fernández Lobbe made the most hit-up´s with ten and Martín Landajo´s two off-loads was also the highest. Kurtley Beale´s seven kicks was a larger number than that of Juan Martín Hernández while Digby Ioane made the most metres as he ran 93 with ball in hand. The key statistic went Australia´s way as Mike Harris kicked six penalty goals from seven attempts compared to Hernández and Marcelo Bosch who kicked four from six between them. It was the difference as Australia won 26-19. Both teams managed one try each with Digby Ioane scoring the first for Australia while Juan Imhoff scored in the final five minutes for Argentina. 

Argentina lost on the scoreboard but succeeded in convincing viewers that it deserves to be in The Rugby Championship. This is no small achievement considering how long it took SANZAR to open its doors to the UAR. In future editions of the tournament it is fair to say that the South American´s will be winning more matches. The tournament had a number of lessons for Pumas coach Santiago Phelan. After the first three matches he actively changed Argentina´s game plan as Los Pumas went for a more attacking appraoch in a bid to score more tries. It worked. After having scored one try in Mendoza and Wellington Argentina scored two on the Gold Coast and two in La Plata. Argentina´s performance in La Plata was its biggest loss and easily the biggest by any in the competition. It was, nonetheless, the only match in which a team managed more than one try against the All Blacks. 

Argentina could have won both matches against Australia and the home match against South Africa. Leaving its first tournament with one draw and five loses may be acceptable in some people´s eyes but Argentina can play better and get better results. The first step towards this is in November as Argentina will face Wales (November 10), France (November 17) and Ireland (November 24). Santiago Phelan now has the coming weeks to see just what is needed for Argentina to win. He made few changes to the starting lineup throughout The Rugby Championship and this will change for the November internationals. The luxury of playing in The Rugby Championship makes Rugby World Cup 2015 further away than it would otherwise be. As such Phelan does not need to look so far into the future as he did in 2008. Nonetheless, there are some changes needed to be implemented sooner rather than latter.

Match Highlights


  1. You can't compare the fullness of the Stadiums in Argentina and South Africa for the All Blacks games. The game in Soweto was played at a much, much bigger stadium than the one in La Plata. If it had been played in a stadium the same size it would also have been full. Please be careful how you present your facts on this site.

    This is not the first time I have seen you make comparisons between Argentina and overseas that could almost be labelled misleading. I fully support the RWC2023 in Argentina which is why I often visit your site but if you are not careful with the way you present certain facts that will do a disservice to your proposal which would be a huge pity.

  2. Also about the crowd in Wellington. The severe storm if you remember also turned some people off getting tickets to the game. As someone who has watched rugby in horrible conditions both at the old stadium and new one (Super games and the Pumas v Scotland last year) in Wellington, I can say that it is a truly dreadful place to watch games in bad weather! Also working in reservations for the main airline in NZ and working on that day, there were many, many flights disrupted and even though quite a few flights got through to Wellington, there were also sadly some that didn't.

    On the game, just as in La Plata, as you said the Pumas tried hard but I have to say the last couple of weeks the team looked weary and I think the tiredness of starting almost the same XV each game was starting to tell. The biggest lesson learnt was the requirement for depth.

    Argentina have a good 20 or so players but they need a good 30. Extra depth can't come soon enough but it might take 4-5 years.

    To be honest guys like Albacete look they could do with two-three weeks off to recharge the batteries before going back to club rugby but will the French clubs let them? I suspect not. They might get one week.

  3. Good point about Soccer City and, absolutely it is a harder venue to fill. There is an issue though and that is that neither Cape Town nor Pretoria were full for the Springboks other home matches.

    Aus v Arg. The Gold Coast had around 22,000 - Rosario had 42,000.

    The weather in Wellington no doubt was a factor. I was at Argentina v Scotland alst year and there wer around 15,000 unsold seats. I was quite stunned but knew it was weather related.

    I´d suggest that The Rugby Championship has done Argentina 2023 a massive favor.

  4. I agree in particular about Gold Coast. It was a poor turnout for the smallest stadium involved in the championship. Hopefully it wont take long to change but the simple truth was that for many SANZAR fans, Argentina represented a less appealing option than tests against the other SANZAR nations. I wouldn't be surprised if that was the case for Italy's away games as well when they started.

    Despite actually finishing second, Australian rugby seems to be in or rather is seen to be in crisis by its own fans and also the genral public and without expat NZers and South Africans (in Perth), their gates could've been somewhat worse for their other home games.

    Don't know why South Africa struggled with the crowd v Aussie. Maybe because the Aussies were missing a big chunk of their top players and the Boks were coming off 2 losses that had lowered fans hopes of a top place.

    Do also remember that while Argentina did well with crowds, some of that will have to do with the "first time" effect. Of course when something is new there is a lot of interest. The question will be, can Argentina sustain that interest, especially if victories don't come?