|Photo: UAR/Atilio Ramirez|
Backrower Jerónimo Mazzoni eyes the try line
History was made in the second of two warm-up matches ahead of the 2013 IRB Junior World Championship as the Argentina Under 20 team, known as Los Pumitas, defeated the South African Under 20 team, the Baby Boks 42-27 in La Plata on Tuesday. Played in the North-Eastern Argentine city of Corrientes at the Club Taraguy Los Pumitas squared the three match series setting up a decider at the La Plata Rugby Club on Saturday.
The result not only sets up an interested third match but it, more importantly, provides a sign of just how good the young up and coming players are within Argentina. Last year Argentina made the Semi Finals of the IRB Junior World Cup which was hosted and won by South Africa. Argentina made headlines by winning Pool C of the tournament and after defeating France, Scotland and Australia Los Pumitas advanced to the Semi Finals to face South Africa. The form shown by the South Americans in the pool matches was not replicated in the Semi Final as South Africa compelted a comprehensive 35-3 victory to eliminate Argentina from the tournament. Argentina´s Semi Final defeat was by a much larger margin that appeared likely due to the team having done so well in the pool stage. Argentina had played some impressive rugby with players of the future emerging and, one imparticular, standing out. Santiago Cordero looked more like a Fijian or All Black fullback than a South American and went on to play Sevens for Argentina at the senior level in 2012 and also tour Wales, France and Ireland with Los Pumas in November.
Cordero was in the side that got revenge over the Baby Boks in Corrientes. He was the starting fullback and was joined in the match day 23 by five other players who were in the Pumitas side that opened the 2012 tournament with a win over France. Santiago Iglesias started both matches at hooker, prop Matías Díaz started against France and was on the bench against South Africa yesterday as was backrower Pablo Matera while Facundo Isa started both matches in the backrow and Felipe Ezcurra started both at scrumhalf and captained the side in Corrientes. Needless to say, these players will be ones to watcdh out for in the 2013 IRB Junior World Championship to be played in the French regions of Pays de la Loire and Brittany in June. Cordero´s certain involvement means his chances of debuting for Argentina in June are limited but there is the possibility that he could debut against Uruguay, Chile or Brazil later this month in the 2013 South American Championship.
With the Argentine team set to play in the South American Championship not including players from Los Pampas XV the chances of Cordero featuring are indeed real and there will also be a number of other Pumitas in consideration for the tournament. The style of play produced by Los Pumitas in Corrientes was far from being stereotypical Argentine rugby. To the contrary, it was a style that replicates that of Los Pampas XV in the Vodacom Cup. The policy of attacking far more by playing with a higher risk of making fatal errors has been a theme in recent years as Argentina looks to adapt to the twenty-first century. In Corrientes this was highly evident and after the match flyhalf Patricio Fernández made it known that Los Pumitas had gone out to attack from the start of the match.
Attack they did as South Africa was taken by surprize with Los Pumitas running out to a 26-12 half time lead. Scoring started in just the first minute with loosehead prop Lucas Noguera Paz going over. Fernández landed the conversion before kicking a second eleven minutes later as outside centre Joaquín Paz scored Argentina´s second try. Fernández then stole the show with penalties in the 20th and 23rd minute, a drop goal in the 26th minute and a thrid penalty in the 34th minute. It gave the South Americans a 26-0 lead only for the Baby Boks to go over for two tries in as many minutes as secondrower Irne Herbst and fullback Jacques Rossouw went over. The second of which was converted by flyhalf Handré Pollard.
South Africa´s comeback continued into the secondhalf with Pollard conterting a try scored by replacement Sylvian Mahuza in the 41st minute. Six minutes later Seabelo Senatla went over for an unconverted try but the left wingers try would be the end of ther momentus comeback as Fernández kicked three penalties compared to one from Pollard before he kicked a last minute conversion for a try scored by inside centre Juan Pablo Aguirre to complete a fifteen point victory after it had been 26-24 with thirty-three minutes left to play.