December 11, 2013
Have Pumas improved?
The jury is still out on whether Argentina’s national rugby team, the Pumas, have improved since last year in the just ended Rugby Championship. Some experts believe that Australia, South Africa and New Zealand are stronger than last year. If so, then the Pumas must have improved a bit also, although losing all six games. Curious is that they lost by smaller margins away than at home. Yet watching the top two, New Zealand and South Africa play on Saturday in one of the best games seen lately, the speed, handling, tackling, evading tackles and all other aspects were just in a higher class.
Argentina usually played better in the first half than in the second which seems to indicate a difference in stamina with the other teams. It was however really expected that they would gain their first win against Australia on Saturday as they had only lost to them by one point in Perth — also after being on top early on — but it was not to be.
It was Felipe Contepomi’s last game as he broke the Argentine record with is 87th international game and he will be missed in spite of his age. Also leaving at the end of the year is head coach Santiago Phelan, but he will have another chance of going out with some triumphs in the November internationals when Argentina tour to face England, Scotland and Italy — teams not in the same class as the Southern Hemisphere giants of the Rugby Championships, although it depends what players the Pumas will have available. The Argentine Rugby Union (UAR) says it will negotiate with foreign clubs, although rules say they must release the players.
Some people said Phelan should have left some time ago because the Pumas lost a lot, but they obviously do not know about the statistics of the game.
Argentina are guaranteed a place in the Rugby Championship until the 2015 season and hopefully they will win before then when the UAR talks of negotiating new terms. But if their demands are too high — not unusually they may think they are worth more than they are — they may find themselves thrown out.
The UAR is making a packet now — only from the three home games — by having charged Mendoza 3.6 million pesos against South Africa and La Plata 4 million against New Zealand, while the figure paid by Rosario against Australia is not available. Ticket prices in the 40,000-capacity Estado Único in La Plata cost from 226 to 669 pesos and it was packed. Last year it was 3 million for each venue and as they have to bid for the right to stage games, it will be higher next year. Against this, the annual sum of 236,000 dollars paid to the UAR by the International Rugby Board for Argentina being among the leading teams seems insignificant.