OpinionTuesday, August 5, 2014
Pumas focus on being successful
When Los Pumas travel to South Africa tomorrow evening to play in the opening round of a new Rugby Championship, coach Daniel Hourcade will have time constraints to finish working on the style the team is hoping to implement. It will have to be mostly fine-tuning in the hope that his players understand and believe in this new game plan.
After Saturday’s game in Catamarca, the second of two friendlies against French club Grenoble, players seem to be finding more comfort in this new attacking style, which requires the ball to be more alive. A perfect example of this was the try scored by centre Jerónimo de la Fuente after a move in which there was everything that is being sought by the coach: attacking the space, at speed, off-loads, ball retention, speed and an incredible hunger for the try-line. Los Pumas scored a handful of tries in the 56-22 win which allows us to be positive when it comes to the team’s attacking ability.
Like in any sport, wins are based on the defensive work and Los Pumas again seemed troubled by a team that for periods of the game hurt them in attack and managed to break them for three tries. There were individual and collective mistakes. Everybody acknowledge them which is positive. It doesn’t make the task any easier, though.
Defence will be crucial in the series against South Africa; soon after, the All Blacks and the Wallabies follow. These three teams are extremely damaging in attack; giving them space is suicidal.
These days in Pretoria, as the team finds its feet and works around the thin air of those 1300 metres above sea level, will require a very focused squad, working on their defence to stop the big, burly South Africans. So, with a warm heart and a cold mind, Los Pumas must be prepared for the green onslaught.
The Rugby Championship is fast approaching and anxiety grows for players and fans. On Saturday in Sydney there was a prelude to what awaits with the final of Super Rugby in which the Waratahs (based in Sydney) won by a single point against the Crusaders (Christchurch) at the end of a long super season. With both teams stacked with Wallabies and All Blacks they played a brand of rugby our players are not accustomed to. That is a reality to face and a style to aim for. Los Pumas played against Grenoble and for those based in Europe it was their first game in the season. Players in Super Rugby have played since February at this high standard.
It is not fair to expect these 2014 Pumas to win the Rugby Championship or even more than one game. They are of course focused on being successful and hopefully getting their first ever win. But the standard of their three opponents is very high. It will require a lot more than their 100 percent. The hunger is there; now, in these next few days, it will be how best to plan an opening game that is fast approaching.