• Pumas’ ploy may backfire

    The Argentinian attack has disappointed in 2016 and may do the Pumas more harm than good in the opening Rugby Championship Test against the Springboks, writes JON CARDINELLI in Nelspruit.

    Argentina look set to persist with a high-risk, high-reward attacking approach in the Rugby Championship. This is the same game plan that contributed to a famous 37-25 win against the Boks at Kings Park in 2015, as well as an emphatic 43-20 victory against Ireland at the subsequent World Cup tournament. 

    Argentinian rugby has a new identity. Their fearless playing style won them plenty of fans at last year’s global tournament. The big question, however, is whether this game plan will allow them to push the best teams in the world on a more consistent basis.

    These questions first surfaced during the latter stages of the 2015 World Cup. In the semi-final against Australia at Twickenham, the Pumas wowed the crowd with their speed off the mark as well as their determination to keep the attacking movement alive. The final scoreline of 29-15 in favour of the Wallabies, however, put that effort in perspective.

    The 2016 Super Rugby tournament witnessed more of the same. The new Argentinian franchise included most of the Pumas who had featured at the 2015 World Cup, and utilised a similar attacking approach. That playing style proved a hit with crowds and broadcasters, but yielded little in terms of statistical gains and results.

    For all their attacking endeavours, the Jaguares ranked 11th out of 18 teams for points scored (371) and tries scored (43). According to SARugbymag.co.za's Opta-powered stats, they were ranked 13th for kicks from hand, which shows just how determined they were to run rather than boot the ball.

    This approach often led to the Jaguares losing the territorial battle. They often played into their opponents’ hands by running everything from their own half.

    The smarter teams did well to feed off their mistakes and strike at the other end of the park. Overall, the Jaguares lost 11 of their 15 games and finished fifth on the South African group log.

    In the lead-up to the Rugby Championship Test between the Boks and Pumas in Nelspruit, coach Allister Coetzee has made it clear that defence is a priority for his charges. The Bok will be looking to keep the Pumas in check this Saturday, and will also be mindful of the counter-attacking opportunities that may arise should the Pumas lose possession.

    The Jaguares battled on defence during their first Super Rugby campaign. They were ranked ninth for turnovers won, a stat that highlights their struggle to apply pressure on the opposition. They were ranked 17th out of 18 teams for tackles made. They spent the majority of their campaign with ball in hand, and lost the majority of their games.

    The Boks will want the Pumas to run at them this Saturday. The Boks will look to play a more pragmatic game and use accurate defence and tactical kicking as a means to attack and score points.

    As Bok fullback Johan Goosen told reporters on Tuesday, the team that wins the territorial battle usually wins the Test match. Teams that have more possession, but less territory, often go on to lose.

    Photo: Glyn Kirk/Getty Images

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    Jon Cardinelli