Sunday
July 23, 2017

Team slumps to shocking defeat against Force

Friday, May 19, 2017

Jaguares press the self-destruct button

By Frankie Deges / Rugby column

It seemed as if they had pressed a self-destruct button. The Jaguares were but a shadow of what they had been, and certainly can be, in last Saturday’s shocking loss to Force. As hard as it was to see one of the worst teams in Super Rugby winning at Vélez Sarsfield, the implosion of a team that knew going into the game that a win would help them in the run to the play-offs (given an earlier loss against direct rivals Sharks), was hard to swallow.

The smaller crowd numbers at games are a worry to the Unión Argentina de Rugby too but more than that, the way the team is falling to pieces has to raise eyebrows — more so with Los Pumas playing three tests in June, two against England and one against Georgia.

Someone asked me during the week about rumours of changes to the coaching staff — I only hope that rugby never, ever, goes down that road.

Pumas coach Daniel Hourcade travelled to Japan last week for the pool draw for Rugby World Cup 2019 that placed his team in the same pool as England and France and two other teams still to be decided through the qualifying process: either USA or Canada and any one more from Fiji, Samoa or Tonga.

Argentina was in the third band at the time of the draw as they are currently ranked ninth in the World Rugby Rankings — having finished fourth in the previous tournament in England in 2015, it is a big dip.

After playing superb attacking rugby in that tournament, Italy was narrowly beaten in the first game of 2016, France was well beaten in Tucumán before a 27-0 loss against the French in a latter match, with the team again showing little character in the rain.

The Springboks were finally beaten for the first time at home, in Salta, in a much-celebrated 26-24 victory. The rest of the Rugby Championship brought little joy, that being the only win in a tournament that pitches the Argentine team against three of the best teams in the world.

Needing to rediscover that style that had brought them, and fans, so much joy, they beat Japan in Tokyo but lost the following three internationals against Wales, Scotland and England, slumping in the rankings, a fall which would eventually see them placed in the third band for last week’s draw.

Going into November, they knew how important it was to win on tour. They failed and paid the price.

Since the heyday of RWC 2015, Los Pumas have struggled when playing at test level. Last year, having only just entered into Super Rugby (and the travelling circus it is), there were reasons for the lack of cohesion of a team with an almost empty tank, at the end of a season in which players had spent almost half of the year away from home.

Given that Los Pumas are selected entirely from the Jaguares, one team affects the other. With less than a month until the start of the international window, it is hard not to be wary of what might happen.

England will arrive in Argentina without some star players, who will be on tour with the British & Irish Lions. This is not necessarily a blessing for Argentina as a younger team will be trying to prove their worth to England coach Eddie Jones. Los Pumas will have to be at their best to be competitive. It will be interesting to see how the recent performances of the Jaguares will affect them.

@frankiedeges

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