Pumas know they must step up
Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe (AFP)
Mendoza - Argentina's 16-16 draw with South Africa represents a huge step forward for the Pumas - but they want even better results in the new Rugby Championship according to captain Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe.
The performance was confirmation that it was not a mistake to bring Argentina into the major annual competition they had lacked, expanding the Tri-nations into a four-team tournament.
The Pumas are not blinded, though, by the result and are fully aware that playing world champions New Zealand away next requires another big step up.
But then Argentine rugby has for more than a decade taken big strides forward from their first Rugby World Cup quarter-final in 1999 with a third place finish in 2007 to their credit.
"It's good what we achieved but this team wants to improve," said Fernandez Lobbe.
"Everyone saw our disappointed faces when the match ended. It's true we'll remember this match all our lives, but we like to win and victory slipped away by very little," he told reporters.
Argentina were a quarter of an hour from beating South Africa for the first time when centre Frans Steyn charged down a kick and scored the try that salvaged the draw with Morné Steyn's conversion.
Spectators at the packed Malvinas Argentinas Stadium or watching at home on television could see South Africa were not playing well, mired in Argentina's "European type of game" as coach Heyneke Meyer put it.
Meyer said his team could play much better, and had done so at Newlands the previous Saturday, but Argentina sought to play in the Springboks half and succeeded for long spells especially in the first half when they scored 13 of their points.
"We had promised ourselves that this would be a day to remember," Fernandez Lobbe said.
Argentina thrived on home advantage, always important to the Pumas in building a formidable reputation since the amateur days not so far back, and correction of errors made in their 27-6 debut defeat by the Springboks a week earlier.
"In two weeks' time we have to take another step forward," Fernandez Lobbe added. The Pumas face the All Blacks in Wellington on September 8.
Coach Santiago Phelan was less outwardly emotional at his news conference about a day reporters and fans talked of as historic.
"The result is positive beyond the fact we could have won the match. We work to improve our game and the result comes as a consequence - We try to take a step forward every time we play," Phelan said.