by Ben Coles
SIX MATCHES with no victories is a harsh conclusion to Argentina’s inaugural tournament with the established Tri-Nations giants. Against South Africa in Mendoza they were the dominant side for the majority of the match as the Springboks struggled with the boot, before Frans Steyn’s chargedown saved the Springbok blushes.
Their matches against the Wallabies were seen before the tournament began as their best opportunity for a win, but both ended in narrow defeats by seven points or less.
Concerns over Argentina’s ageing pack proved futile, with Rodrigo Roncero rolling back the years, but it was the performances of Marcelo Bosch, Gonzalo Camacho, Martin Landajo and Juan Figallo to name a few that were exciting as Argentina continue to build towards the next Rugby World Cup. The Pumas attack is still pre-dominantly based around power but they showed flashes of improved skill out wide with their first try against New Zealand a prime example.
After the furore around integrating Argentina following the 2007 Rugby World Cup, it was essential they they acquitted themselves well rather than becoming the ‘Italy’ of the Southern Hemisphere. Although they have finished their first year in the tournament without a win, they surprised South Africa with the draw in Mendoza and gave the Wallabies plenty of uncomfortable moments in both of their encounters.
Take away the hammering handed out by the All Blacks and the Pumas hold plenty of promise. They will only improve by continuing to take on the top sides annually so despite there being no victories, this was an encouraging beginning to Argentina’s new chapter in The Rugby Championship.
Star Player: Juan Martín Fernández Lobbe
The former Sale talisman always seem to be at his best when up against the world’s greatest competition. A nuisance at the breakdown, his physicality is a fine example to the younger Argentinian forwards coming through of how to compete at Test level as he outshone the opposition, especially in the draw against South Africa. His obvious disappointment at failing to beat a vulnerable Wallaby side highlights Argentina’s belief that they can win at this level.
Rising Talent: Martin Landajo
Continuing the tradition of talented Argentinian scrum-halves, 24-year old Landajo caught the eye with some strong performances throughout The Rugby Championship, putting pressure on Toulouse scrum-half Nicolas Vergallo. The Pumas need quality competition to bring out the best of their squad and Landajo is a bright prospect.
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