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October 23, 2014
Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Pumas changing their style

By Frankie Deges
Rugby column

Los Pumas are working very hard in the build-up to the third Rugby Championship, an early glimpse of what they are trying to achieve will be seen next Friday night when at the Club Atlético San Isidro they tackle French Club Grenoble.

Although the game plan was tried out when they played Ireland and France in June, this squad will have some better players, unavailable back then — amongst them, just by naming the loose forward trio of Juan Fernández Lobbe, Juan Leguizamón and Pablo Matera gives an idea of how much better this squad is. “We’ll play a more Southern Hemisphere style,” said Daniel Hourcade during a break in their hectic schedule.

That renovated style requires the ball to be “live” longer, players that can penetrate deeper into the opposition defence and a continuity that had previously been Los Pumas’ Achilles. For this, a new way of training is needed. Speed and continuity are the key in this new paradigm; mistakes are dealt with at the end of the training session and not during. Everything is done at 100 miles an hour.

“We’ve finished with the heavy fitness and last week was the first in which we focused on rugby; to many this is the pre-season so there are still a few mistakes and balls that go to ground,” highlights the coach. “Our players based in Europe are adapting well and happy with the new style. Of course, we are changing things but this is the way our opponents in the Rugby Championship will play.”

There are other changes focused on ensuring a better performance. In order to start on a better foot, Los Pumas will fly to South Africa earlier. Pretoria’s Loftus Versfeld Stadium, where the test will be played, in the South African veldt is located about 2,000 metres above sea level where the air is thinner. “It was not the reason and it wasn’t brought up last year so that it didn’t sound as an excuse, but it did affect the team in their loss against the Springboks,” argued the coach. “By arriving 10 days before the test, we will be able to be better prepared. We should be OK within the week.”

The comeback of Juan Martín Hernández, who returned to France last week to cancel his professional contract with Racing Metro to focus on Los Pumas — was met with a long day of training sessions, starting early in the morning and finishing as the sun was falling. When it came to actual game practice, the former flyhalf and fullback practiced at inside centre (#12), the position in which Hourcade wants him to play.

As the coach explained, “our system is firmly based on decision making and the speed of the game nowadays is such that the fly-half is too busy to analyse what is in front of him. Now that responsibility falls with the number 12 and that is why Juan Martín is there now. An inside centre has to be a good distributor, a good defender and strong enough to attack as well as being an alternative as fly-half. He ticks every box.”

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