Buenos Aires - Argentina have long been renowned for their powerful front rows and the Pumas see the revised scrummaging laws as a chance to recover a dominance of that facet of the game in their second Rugby Championship.
The International Rugby Board (IRB)'s introduction of a global trial period for a modification in how rival packs engage at a scrum to reduce impact and protect front row players Will be used in the Championship that starts on Saturday.
With Argentina's production line of gnarly props and combative hookers showing no sign of drying up, the South Americans are hoping the rule changes will help them get their first win in the southern hemisphere's annual competition.
“Because of the change in the rules and the matches in June against England, which weren't good, we're putting emphasis on the scrum,” Pumas assistant coach and former test prop Mauricio Reggiardo told reporters at a recent training session.
“We want to recover it, it's the Pumas' DNA, Argentine rugby's business card.”
Argentina, though not their Rugby Championship squad, lost a home series 2-0 to an England side also weakened by the absence of their British and Irish Lions in the June test window.
“The change makes for a return to the basics of Argentine rugby. It's going to benefit us in the long run,” said hooker Eusebio Guinazu.
“The scrum is something we front row forwards grow up with ... our culture of a coordinated push has a lot to offer.
“For example, there will be time to stabilise the set piece after the introduction of the ball and that will allow us to use the co-ordinated push to our advantage.”
This is not to say Argentina will be happier playing the 10-man rugby of the Hugo Porta era as they have worked for the last decade on expanding their game.
This was manifest at the 2007 World Cup and again in the Rugby Championship last year, although it came unstuck when they took a step too far against South Africa in the 2007 semi-final and then against New Zealand in La Plata last September.
Heart has always been a big part of Argentina's successes, especially on home ground, and captain Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe wants to exploit that further.
“We want to be a serious team, who are clear about what they want, playing with 100 percent attitude all the time,” said the back row forward, doubtful for Saturday's opener in Johannesburg because of a calf muscle strain.
“But that attitude must be a plus to win matches. We can't base everything on our heart. We have to build a solid platform for our heart to make a difference.
“The second year is always harder, you're no longer a surprise (team). That's why we're working on raising our level, (but) we also have one more year's experience. We know we can always give a little bit more.”
The Pumas, who have been advised again this year by 2011 World Cup winning coach Graham Henry, have just beaten the New South Wales Barbarians in a two-match warm-up series, a tight 29-27 win followed by an encouraging eight-try 58-12 rout.
Argentina are also looking for a stronger tournament from flyhalf Juan Martin Hernandez, a key player in the breakthrough 2007 World Cup campaign.
“I have been able to play a year and a half of continuous rugby with good training sessions which is what I lacked,” Hernandez said after an injury-plagued 2011 World Cup year.
“With a year's experience we can hope to manage our matches better, not control them because we're facing superior teams but it would be good to be able to optimise our balls and our moments.
“Now we know what the tournament is about, we should be able to concentrate more on playing.
“Let's hope we play good rugby and progress because we ended last year losing by a lot against Ireland (in November). I'm sure that's not how the Argentina team plays.” – Reuters