OpinionTuesday, July 29, 2014
The style the Pumas play
Watching a compilation of recent tries on YouTube with one of my three boys, we enjoyed various different sorts of five-pointers. Moves based on continuity, fluidity, ball retention and control in contact. The off-load (when the ball carrier manages to pass on the ball when going into contact and thus not losing momentum) was crucial in many of these tries. The common thread here was how hungry for scoring tries everyone was.
So, we enjoyed great tries by the All Blacks, England, France, Australia, South Africa, Samoa and even Tonga as well as those from European professional clubs and Super Rugby outfits. This rather long clip included the try scored by Martín Landajo against the All Blacks in the first Rugby Championship, in which after a great move by the Puma backs and a deep run by Lucas González Amorosino, the scrumhalf runs 30 yards to score “Why, my son asked, was there only one Puma try?”
Hard to explain to an eight-year-old who can only understands the concept of running with the ball in his hands wanting to score, why his favourite team features only once in a 50-try compilation. I did tell him that if things work out as we hope for, he should be able to enjoy more Puma tries in the near future.
When Kiwi Graham Henry arrived to help Argentina only months after coaching his country to the 2011 Rugby World Cup, one of the key things he mentioned was that Los Pumas needed to score more tries. Under Santiago Phelan the team was not setting the world alight with their try-scoring capabilities.
Daniel Hourcade is now, as coach, trying to change the style the Pumas play. On Friday night, the team played the first of two warm-up games before a third Rugby Championship which promises to be as uncompromising as the opening two. It was basically a pre-season game after having worked for two weeks in the USA and another two weeks in Buenos Aires. They played against a French professional club also in their pre-season.
Even if Grenoble is very far from the standard the team will face in the opening game of the Rugby Championship in Pretoria, on August 16, against South Africa, we did see a glimpse of that style. Despite the cold night at the Club Atlético San Isidro, the team was positive in its approach to the game. They tried and managed to keep the ball moving, with the fluidity mentioned above and the effective use of the off-load. Despite the positive win — 44-21 which could have been bigger — it was important to see that the team was trying to play in a different way, in that new style the coach wants. Slowly, as they understand the new strategies and requirements, the players are buying into it.
Hourcade has already said that to play this way, the team must train at this speed and efficiency. This style is of course, more enjoyable to play and entertaining for the fans. Having said this, in order to play this way, the team needs to secure its fair share of possession. Against Grenoble, they managed to win sufficient ball to play as they planned; the question mark remains on the ability to win that same amount of ball against the best three teams in the world. That is the big “if.”