DURBAN, Aug 19 (Reuters) - New Argentina coach Mario Ledesma labelled South Africa’s pack the most physical in world rugby and said the Pumas must figure out a way to stop them when the two countries meet again in the Rugby Championship in Mendoza on Saturday.
Ledesma’s first match in charge of Argentina saw them beaten 34-21 by the Springboks at Kings Park in Durban in a bruising encounter on the opening weekend of the four-nations southern hemisphere championship.
“They are the most physical team in the world by far. We knew that coming into this game. They kept playing direct footie,” said the 45-year-old former prop forward, previously an assistant coach with Australia.
“We stood up, but it was like a dam wall. They kept hammering away and something had to give.”
“They built up momentum, and I stopped counting their tries. We will have to address our problems at the set pieces and rucks, but how do you stop them? I don’t know. Maybe they will get sick or something,” he joked with reporters.
“I think obviously they had the momentum and they had much more quality ball than we had from set pieces. But it is difficult against a physical side like South Africa to keep stopping them and keep defending, and not having quality ball.
“Even being in that position, we were 27-21 behind with 20 minutes to go and we could have won the game. We would not have deserved to win the game, but we were in a position to win. But we kept losing ball from lineouts and in the rucks and we knew they were targeting us on those two things.”
Ledesma, however, was delighted with his team’s positive approach and the way they disrupted their opponents’ play.
“Defensive pressure during a lot of the game worked. Especially the line speed of the backs, which forced the Springboks backs to make many mistakes with their passes and complicated things for them,” he said.
“Our centres were the better and the backs scored points. Almost without having quality balls, we still got 21 points.
“But at this level, you have to restrict the other team in just one or two tries of you want to win.” (Reporting by Mark Gleeson in Johannesburg; Editing by Christian Radnedge)