Los Pumas nearly shocked the Rugby Championship by almost stealing a late draw against the Boks at Loftus. Photo by: Steve Haag/Gallo Images

Yes, the rain was a big leveller, but take nothing away from Los Pumas who very nearly shocked the Rugby Championship by stealing a late draw against the Boks at Loftus on Saturday.

The visitors had a few bites at the tryline in the dying minutes, opportunities that were they converted, would have set them up to draw the match. Of course, it didn’t happen, and today it doesn’t help talking about missed chances, what ifs and could have beens; the fact is the Boks won their opening match of the competition.

Still, I feel it’s worth giving Argentina something of a punt today.

I happened to be on back-to-back flights with the team, from Joburg to Sao Paulo and then on to Beunos Aires on Sunday and it was most interesting to note just how ordinary and plain these guys are.

We mustn’t forget that Argentina is football country; in fact the whole of South America is ‘football country’, as is the case throughout the world, which makes Los Pumas’ performance last Saturday seriously impressive – coming so close to toppling a major rugby nation. And who will forget the Boks only managed a draw against them in Mendoza two years ago and also battled at the same venue last year.

The Pumas players are far from being household names, like the Boks or All Blacks; they move around airports without anyone turning to stare – which happens with the Boks – and hardly anyone even knows it is the Argentina national rugby team sitting on the plane among the everyday folk. Yes, at least half of the Argentina team flew back home in economy class, including the whole coaching team. Only the matchday squad from last Saturday were a little more comfortable in business class.

I wonder if Heyneke Meyer, Steve Hansen or Ewen McKenzie has crossed the Atlantic Ocean sitting in “cattle class”. I doubt it ... not that I’m suggesting they should; I’m just pointing out that the Argentina rugby team may be playing in the Rugby Championship alongside three of the biggest nations in the game, yet they are still far from being an equal.

They’ve always produced some quality players, many of whom have become big stars in Europe, especially in France, but when they get together to play as Argentina, they always seem to be fighting a losing battle. A win last Saturday would have been massive for the players, coaching team and the competition ... and that’s why coach Daniel Hourcade was so upset afterwards. He knew that his team got close, that the Boks were there for the taking.

It’s great having a “new” team in the Rugby Championship, but it will mean nothing if Argentina don’t start winning games. Perhaps that elusive win will come in Salta on Saturday? - The Star