See how the Pumas had to train ahead of their return to Test rugby

Argentina’s long road to historic victory over New Zealand

After Argentina’s historic 25-15 victory over New Zealand, captain Pablo Matera spoke of how tough it had been for the squad to prepare for their long-awaited return to Test rugby.

The Pumas hadn’t played an International since their World Cup campaign ended 13 months ago while the Covid-19 pandemic saw the cross-border Super Rugby competition, in which most Argentina players represent the Jaguares, ended prematurely in March.

Argentina’s long road to historic victory over New Zealand

Dive time: Nicolas Sanchez scores in Argentina’s win over NZ (Getty Images)

In the ensuing months, the players had to find novel ways to keep fit and work on their skills while under lockdown restrictions in Argentina. Fly-half Nicolas Sanchez ran laps inside his house, hooker Santiago Socino practised for the lineout by throwing the ball to his dad on the roof of their home, scrum-half Tomas Cubelli worked on his passing in his garage.

When the squad got permission to train in Argentina they had to go through various Covid-19 protocols while the quarantine procedures on arrival in Australia for this year’s Rugby Championship, which is now a Tri-Nations following South Africa’s decision not to participate, saw them isolating in their hotel and running defence drills in the team room.

Some players haven’t seen their families since August while they will have been away from home for more than two months by the time the Tri-Nations ends in December.

This video from the Pumas shows what the players have experienced this year…

Yet all those sacrifices paid off when they beat the All Blacks for the first time ever in their opening Tri-Nations match at Bankwest Stadium in Sydney. Rather than being undercooked for that match, the Pumas were too hot for the All Blacks to handle.

They now play Australia, New Zealand and Australia again on successive weekends. Could a Tri-Nations title be their next historic achievement?

However they fare in their next three games, the Pumas are sure to have inspired the next generation of rugby players in Argentina with this result.

“Young kids can’t go to their home clubs to play rugby at the moment because of the virus but I’m sure they are going to feel proud of being Argentinean and being rugby players,” said Matera. “And this can bring new kids to the game.

“It’s tough in Argentina and it’s tough to be here, but we wanted to show people that if you put in the work you can achieve things, if you keep going you can make it.”

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