“We were not World Champions last week and we are not the worst team in the world this one.”
Captain Julián Montoya, the face of dejection, made a statement seconds after a massive, unexpected, loss, their second biggest in Rugby Championship history. They were beaten by the team they had beaten only seven days earlier.
Maybe they were not that great that night… maybe they are not that bad now. Whoever or whatever they are, they had a long flight home to do some reflecting ahead of what promises to be an incredibly hard game at home against a recovered Springboks side.
It is a part of Pumas’ history that they very seldom manage to back-up wins. It is part of their DNA that they find it hard to raise to the levels needed after a win as big as the one in Christchurch.
This, put into an equation in which the All Blacks definitely could not lose, the uncomfortable rain, meant that from early, Nic Berry’s officiating, and the mountain was always going to be hard to climb.
Both games were totally different in many different ways; so much that it is now hard to imagine what the next game at an already sold-out Vélez Sarsfield Stadium against the traveling Springboks will be like.
There are still mathematical possibilities of being tournament champions, yet that was never the goal and will certainly not be a motivating factor. Getting better is.
The only motivation should come from playing at home, in front of the vociferous crowd, having to show what they are capable of, what was already achieved rather than whatever little rugby they showed under the rain in Hamilton.
When Michael Cheika spoke of physicality, it was pretty clear from the opening few skirmishes that the All Blacks were going to bring their A-plus game. Anything short of that, would prove catastrophic for Los Pumas.
It did. Losing by 50 points at this level should not be acceptable.
Losing by 50 points a week after their first win in New Zealand, against the All Blacks, leaves a short-term sour taste. In the future, in Argentina they will hail the heroes of Christchurch and will forget about Hamilton, even if they were almost the same names. That is the nature of the beast.
Whatever hand-glue the All Blacks had, was much, much better than the one in Los Pumas hands. The number of knock-ons and fumbles under the constant Waikato shower certainly did not help them. Maybe Pablo Matera should text Dane Coles to ask if he can share the brand used.
A lot was made of how they exchanged pleasantries at the end of the game. It was good that Matera, once a wild boy, restrained himself. Dane Colesor a constantly shouting Aaron Smith are probably doing their team a service by getting into the opposition nerves.
They are role models today; in the old days, they would have been head-hunted by opponents… as in hunting for their heads.
Imagine their attitudes if they were to play against, say, a Sir Colin Meads? They would quickly learn to be a tad more respectful of the opposition. Ian Foster got into it, when being ironic he said: “everybody likes Colesy …”
At least, there was no PR video of both players chatting as best of mates in the sheds.
The game wasn’t lost there for Los Pumas as it wasn’t in the whistle of Nic Berry, yet the boot was definitely on the other shoe this time.
The All Blacks did not like the control of Nika Amashukeli in the first test. Cheika was probably being polite on Saturday’s post-match press conference, he can’t have been very happy with the performance of his fellow countryman.
Consistency is what players and coaches most appreciate. It didn’t seem that way for Berry, quick to penalize a Puma pack that did not have the necessary fire in them to contest the All Blacks at the breakdown but were not always the culprit; for similar situations, the All Blacks could keep going.
Sam Cane escaped a penalty when he checked flyhalf Santiago Carreras late after a kick, who later had to leave the field for that incident. Had it been a Puma, it is not hard to imagine he would have been sin binned.
With quick points on offer to the home side and the gap widening, it wasn’t as a week earlier when every kickable opportunity was taken. That puts pressure on the defending team and when it is not the night, then it is not the night.
It would be almost futile to say that Saturday was certainly not the night for Los Pumas.
The future, with Cheika showing composure and generating a good-will scenario, should take care of itself.
Signs of his influence are coming through, every game had glimpses of it. The win against the All Blacks wasn’t the perfect game but showed what mental strength he can do. Mental weakness against the All Blacks can result in a 50-plus points loss.
Argentina was not the best team in the world for beating the All Blacks. They are not the worst now.
Consistency, as was mentioned before, is a crucial development weapon for a team. Beating the Wallabies, backing up to beat the All Blacks was already a move in the right direction. Eventually, nature, DNA, intervened.
What team will show up in their last home game for the season? Bets are that they will be closer to the one that is desperate for a third win.
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