The quick questions: Los Pumas están sobre nosotros
Yes, the Pumas are upon us. They’ve been quietly going about their business in camp in South America, and have travelled halfway around the world after half their squad contracted COVID-19. They’ve been training in Sydney for a month, and now after the best part of seven months, we will finally see some Argentinean rugby […]
Yes, the Pumas are upon us.
They’ve been quietly going about their business in camp in South America, and have travelled halfway around the world after half their squad contracted COVID-19. They’ve been training in Sydney for a month, and now after the best part of seven months, we will finally see some Argentinean rugby again.
To say it hasn’t been the ideal build-up would be the understatement of the year. Yet Mario Ledesma and his squad have just got on with the job and will be coming into their first Test match of 2020 with on clear intention:
Beat New Zealand.
Teams will be out at some point today, and then we’ll find out just how competitive Los Pumas will be in the Tri-Nations tournament.
Over to the panel. Nobes has been waiting all year for this chance to educate us all.
Argentina have been tuning up in the beachside suburbs of Sydney and via a couple of warm-up games against Australian selections. But now that they will face New Zealand and Australia on alternate weekends for the next month, what would be a realistic expectation of their performance in the Tri-Nations?
The conditions to open the Tri-Nations are not ideal for Los Pumas who will have to face a team that they never beat, without having played previous matches and with their players spread over two continents who were only able to get together and train all together last week.
On the other hand, the All Blacks have already played four games and their players have been playing rugby in their respective teams for several months.
Anyway, you have to celebrate being able to be in Australia and start the road to France playing against teams of the highest level. A dream for the time that we are living in and for many of the 45 players who are in Australia, it is their first experience.
Investigating a little the starting team would be the next Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro, Julian Montoya and the return of Gomez Codela after seven years to the Pumas.
Guido Petty, Matias Alemano and Tomas Lavanini did not travel due to injury. Marcos Kremer, Pablo Matera and Rodrigo Bruni are in since Facundo Isa is not fully fit and will not play this match.
With the duo of Tomas Cubelli and Nicolas Sanchez driving, the problems are in the centre since Matias Moroni did not travel and Jeronimo De la Fuente has been training in a different way with some discomfort. In the last training match the debutants Lucio Cid and Santiago Chocobares played, but Matias Orlando is available too.
There is plenty of quality for the back three but I think Santiago Carreras will be the full-back, and Juan Imhoff and Emiliano Boffelli will play if he recovers in time. There are also Bautista Delguy, Sebastian Cancelieri and Santiago Cordero for those positions.
Seeing these players and putting them with those dressing in black one by one is going to be very difficult because in the individual duels there is a clear advantage for New Zealand.
The fact that the All Blacks lost last week does not help. When was the last time the men from New Zealand lost two consecutive games?
I hope that Los Pumas can handle the set pieces well, the question is the scrum since the line did not change too much, and watch if the modified defensive system works.
I am sure that the players will show plenty of enthusiasm on the turf and perhaps there is a surprise factor since nobody has seen them play since Japan and we do not know much about what they may have practiced in the short time with the players who came from the old continent and those already in Australia. The concern is the natural lack of rhythm and if they can physically endure the 80 minutes of play where the All Blacks and Wallabies have a very intense style.
Well, Los Pumas like to be the underdogs and they have been that for a while, so let’s give them a slim chance.
In fact, after watching John Rahm’s hole-in-one at Augusta, I think Los Pumas do have a chance. Anything is possible!
As far as I’m concerned, Los Pumas are playing without expectation – if anything, they’ve already exceeded them by turning up for the tournament in the first place. With four games in as many weeks, team changes will be required game-to-game, so there’s a clear opportunity to blood some new players.
But expectations? No.
They’ve never beaten the All Blacks and aren’t going to do it on the back of a couple of warm-ups against Australia A, and the disparity in preparation makes toppling the Wallabies a long shot too.
They really have little expectation, the Pumas, so they really can just go out there and enjoy themselves.
They will of course have their own high expectations of themselves but I am really unsure how to quantify what would be a satisfactory performance.
Implementing quality structures and showing great attitude and resolve in defence would be enough for me as certainly, winning seems a step too far.
Only the coldest of heart and Ian Foster could not want the Pumas to perform well this week. Their squad has inhabited a different universe to that of the All Blacks and Wallabies, and they go into this championship with a disparity in preparation never seen before in SANZAAR history.
They cannot possibly hope to beat the All Blacks, if they do it will rugby’s biggest-ever upset. And the Wallabies now, taking steps forward, will surely accommodate them as well.
But the Pumas have turned up and that is already a victory. Despite missing a number of key players, there is still talent to burn and there will be pride and determination to match.
If you offered Mario Ledesma one win in this Tri-Nations tournament, I bet he’d be publicly offended. But then, he’d catch up with you in the car park and make sure the offer was still there. His former Randwick number eight assistant would be in the background asking if he could nominate which one.
But Argentina are a proud rugby nation, without question, and pride will quite likely push them deep into their two opening matches.
Beyond that, depth and fitness are going to be their biggest challenge. They got better through the two warm-up games against Australia A, or the McClennan XV, or whatever they were called, but New Zealand and Australia after a month of Test rugby are several steps up in class.
That all said, I just have this pit in my stomach that Los Pumas have a win in them.
I just pray it doesn’t mean what I fear it might!
Los Pumas are a change of pace.
The All Blacks have been fixated on Harry’s tight pants, Gus’s bell, Jordan’s pitter-patta, Nic’s stache, the lost L in Philip and when Taniela Tupou comes on.
So the element of surprise may help. Isi or isi not going to be good? Hell if I know. Probably a Blacklash.
And after their best performance of the international season on Saturday night, does this weekend off help or hinder the Wallabies for the rest of the tournament?
It doesn’t let them build on the momentum from last Saturday straight away, but it also gives some battered bodies a chance to rest up before the last two matches of the year. It’ll also provide Dave Rennie with more opportunity to think about how he wants to tinker with the team, and which squad members who haven’t got a run yet will see some action against Argentina.
Neither or both, really don’t know.
If I had to pick one, it would be a hindrance. One automatically wants to build on their success and the additional wait may prove frustrating and difficult to keep that momentum firing.
Hopefully, the rest will prove the opposite as fine-tuning can be applied.
The weekend off comes at a good time for the Wallabies.
They get to savour last week’s win, but not to the extent of clouding their next preparation – suddenly finding themselves two days out from another Test, floating like they’re on top of the world, perhaps believing all the press. This way, Dave Rennie and his coaching team get the luxury of having all of that wash out of the system at its own pace, before early next week switching the camp back into full-on Test preparation mode.
And like a golfer watching his playing partner putt first on the same line, the Wallabies get a free look at any twists and turns the Pumas might offer.
I’m sure they would have liked to play again on Monday this week after that win in Brisbane, but a weekend off refreshing among the vineyards in the Hunter Valley will do them good.
Let’s face it, a weekend off refreshing among the vineyards in the Hunter Valley works wonders even for teetotallers.
The challenge is going to be how quickly they can regain their required level of intensity ahead of facing Argentina next weekend, and working out which bodies might need a game off.
The likes of Brandon Paenga-Amosa, Matt Philip, Harry Wilson, Nic White, and Marika Koroibete have played a fair bit of intense footy of late, and though they’d hate the idea, there would be merit in sitting them out. Same applies to the captain, but good luck to anyone trying to tell Michael Hooper to miss a game.
But on the other hand, they all need to get back on the horse, too. If Test Match rugby were easy, everyone would play it.
Get back on the horse. Win well next weekend.
I’m sure the rest is best.
That was a street fight.