Argentina must toughen up mentally

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iol spt sep5 Pumas Gallo Images Argentina coach Daniel Hourcade is now working to improve his side's mental toughness as they prepare to tackle the All Blacks. Photo by: Steve Haag/Gallo Images

Napier, New Zealand - After shaking up Argentina's style of play for this year's Rugby Championship, coach Daniel Hourcade is now working to improve his side's mental toughness, captain Agustin Creevy said on Friday.

The Pumas, who meet New Zealand at McLean Park in Napier on Saturday, looked set to record their first win in the competition two weeks ago but slipped to a 33-31 defeat to South Africa.

Argentina had controlled the game for about 60 minutes before the Springboks stormed back from 28-16 down and won with a late Morne Steyn penalty.

“I think it's concentration,” Creevy told reporters through an interpreter at McLean Park on Friday. “We know the problem of the last game was the last 20 minutes. We work a lot to fix that.

“We considered that this is something that will improve game by game. It's something we are working on.”

The Pumas have long been considered the best scrummagers in the world, though traditionally have then relied on a flyhalf to kick for territory and penalty goals while those outside were largely underutilised.

Hourcade, however, has shaken up the game plan, allowing his players to open up their style and giving licence to his backs to run and challenge defences out wide.

Creevy said they were pleased to be playing a more attacking style and while rain was forecast for Hawke's Bay on Saturday, the weather would not stymie their intent.

“We like to be a team that moves the ball and runs and not only the team that plays in the maul or a kicking game,” the hooker said.

“We have been working a lot on our systems to move the ball and are very glad that people are seeing that Argentina is a team that likes to move the ball.

“We realise the rain will mean some limits, but the system will be the same. Maybe we will have short passes than long ones but we will play the same way.”

The Pumas joined the Rugby Championship in 2012 and while they had pushed teams, particularly Australia, throughout their previous two seasons they have not won a game in the southern hemisphere competition.

Questions had been raised as to whether the competition was being diminished because the Pumas had not won a game, despite expectations they could do so inside their first two seasons.

Those concerns had been recognised by the Pumas, who were now more experienced, more used to the rhythm of the competition and confident enough in their own abilities to be competitive every time they stepped on the field, added Creevy.

“This is the third year we have been playing this tournament and we are more experienced than we have been before,” he added.

“We think all the games we start, we will play to win.

“We know all the games you can win or lose. This group is very confident with what we are doing. We are here to play the All Blacks and we will play the game as equals.” – Reuters


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