Saturday, August 10, 2013

Blow for Argentina - Marcos Ayerza will not face South Africa

Photo: Getty Images Marcos Ayerza ruled out of opener in Johannesburg

Los Pumas are set to travel to South Africa on Sunday morning, Argentine time, but will have to do so without the services of first choice loosehead prop Marcos Ayerza. The 30 year old Leicester Tigers frontrower was injured on Friday evening playing for Argentina in a warm-up match against Australian side the New South Wales Barbarians. He suffered a cartilage fracture and will not be able to face the Springboks on August 17. The injury comes at an unfortunate time for Ayerza after he has had to endure close to a decade of being on the bench for Argentina due to the now retired Rodrigo Roncero having a firm comand over the starting position. 

In his place Bath tighthead prop Juan Pablo Orlandi has been recalled. Orlandi had been left out of the twenty-six man squad named last Tuesday to travel to South Africa and will now certainly be a replacement prop for the fixture. Exactly who will start at loosehead prop remains unknown. Santiago Phelan has a number of options available to him to replace Ayerza. The most obvious being for 21 year old Nahuel Lobo to start at loosehead. This being the case then Argentina would be forming an all-Montpellier frontrow based on the 2012-2013 Top 14 season. There is also the possibility of Juan Figallo moving from tighthead prop to loosehead which would mean a start for 20 year old Matías Díaz. 

Lobo has never started a test for Argentina. His two appearances came in November 2012 from the bench. He replaced Ayerza in the 72nd minute to earn his test debut against France in Lille on November 17 and seven days later he replaced Ayerza in the 68th minute against Ireland. Matías Díaz, meanwhile, is yet to face a Tier One nation at test match level. His three test caps were earned earlier this year with him facing Brazil, Chile and Uruguay in the South American Championship. He started two of the three matches and subsequently represented Argentina in the IRB Junior World Championship in France.

Also recalled to the squad is backrower Benjamín Macome. He has been added due to the injury concern surrounding Pumas captain Juan Martín Fernández Lobbe. The UAR confirmed that Macome would be flying to South Africa with the squad as a precaution. Fernández Lobbe suffered a minor injury to the calf muscle of his left leg in the win over New South Wales. Should Fernández Lobbe nor Patricio Albacete be fit then Argentina would likely be led by Felipe Contepomi.

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