The Pumas have made a mockery of the Springbok withdrawal from the Rugby Championship.
SANZAR said several factors were behind the decision to withdraw including limited preparation time and the ongoing effect of the Covid pandemic. With 12 members of the Pumas squad infected with Covid and their last test 402 days ago, all predictions were that they would be underdone.
Los Pumas blew those predictions apart. The Pumas had a month in Australia, isolated together and worked hard on their team unity, cohesion, selection, mental application and focus for the first match against the All Blacks. Wow, what a performance! Their defence was outstanding and not once was their tackle technique high or dangerous. They thoroughly deserved their historic victory.
Ten years ago, coach development courses at IRANZ were as strong on defence as attack. There was a perception around the world that defence won matches. Argentina has been from that school of thought and still is. Our belief at IRANZ is that coaches need to coach an all-round performance, understanding game plan is influenced by the level of skills available within the squad.
My blog last week focussed on selection and the spine of the team. I was OK with most selections and I appreciate the Bledisloe was done and dusted. Our selectors need to try different combinations to help build depth. What did surprise me was we changed the entire spine of the team. We almost did the same again on Saturday by changing the 2,9,10 and 15. Only Ardie Savea survived.
Without doubt, another influencing factor is the trigger-happy referees. The Australian referees didn’t favour any team, but they limited the flow of the game. Red cards, yellow cards, unnecessary penalties – these guys restrict rugby which in turn restricts attack. The All Black selectors will need to consider this when they select their next side and they will be counting the number of mistakes made by each player. Errors give away possession and if we are to utilize the attacking advantage, we need to reduce our error rate.
But this is about Los Pumas, representing a country devastated by Covid and a stunning, courageous victory which will surely be one of Argentina’s proudest rugby moments.