Rugby

Pumas not panicking despite poor results

2017-11-21 18:23
Argentina celebrate their win (Gallo Images)

Dublin - Argentina's form this year suggests they have tumbled a long way from the dizzy heights of the World Cup semi-finals in 2015 but assistant coach Pablo Bouza is unfazed.

The Pumas ended a dispiriting run of seven successive defeats with a 31-15 victory over Six Nations whipping boys Italy on Saturday -- only their second win this year after victory against second-tier Georgia in June.

But Bouza told AFP that playing New Zealand, Australia and South Africa on a regular basis in the Rugby Championship could only help the team, despite regular beatings handed out by the southern hemisphere powerhouses.

Bouza was speaking ahead of the Pumas' final Test of the year this weekend against in-form Ireland, who were beaten emphatically by Argentina in the 2015 World Cup quarter-finals in Cardiff.

"We are on a learning curve," said Bouza. "The players who have been playing in Super Rugby (for the Jaguares in the southern hemisphere elite club competition) are in better shape for that experience.

"The results at the moment don't perhaps reflect that but we have improved in some areas."

Bouza, a renowned lock in his playing days, said Argentina had to learn to keep up their intensity for the whole 80 minutes of matches.

"We have played well and been competitive in a lot of matches for 60 minutes," he said. "However, we haven't tailed off because of a lack of fitness. It has been down to poor decision-making and unfortunate errors."

While the Pumas have not been able to select players playing abroad, Bouza said their eye-catching performance at the last World Cup had boosted the sport in Argentina, a country more traditionally associated with its football obsession.

The hope is that new talent will mature sufficiently by the time the 2019 World Cup in Japan comes along as several of the 2015 vintage have either retired or are ageing - the likes of captain and hooker Agustin Creevy is 32 and No. 8 Juan Manuel Leguizamon is 34.

"The 2015 World Cup was very important for the sport in the country," said Bouza, who himself left Argentina to play out his later years in England for Harlequins and then Leeds Carnegie, since renamed Yorkshire Carnegie.

"A lot of young kids have taken up rugby and it is crucial we keep up that momentum in bringing new blood into the game. Also with the players now playing Super Rugby the sport is now professional at national level."

Bouza said that by playing the top sides annually -- they have played in the Rugby Championship since 2012 -- the Pumas learn not only from their opponents on the pitch but also off it as well and refine their training techniques and routines.

"When we were playing the likes of the All Blacks and South Africa once every three to four years it was hard for the quality of the team to improve," said Bouza.

"But now playing them every year, what is important is we learn about how to train and prepare better for such matches, when to rest players, and we now go on the pitch knowing how to play each one of them as we have got used to their style of play.

"It is also good experience for young players and they can only improve by playing such opposition."

Bouza, though, acknowledges from next year the Pumas must show that they have learnt from the tough times in 2017 and begin to show they are coming together for the World Cup.

"This year has been a learning curve but we have to transform from that and we have just two years and and 21 or 22 matches to gel before the World Cup."

Read more on:    argentina  |  rugby
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