August 17, 2019 / 9:11 PM / 2 months ago

Rugby-Ledesma backs World Cup plans despite losing streak

Pretoria, Aug 17 (Reuters) - Coach Mario Ledesma said Argentina’s plans for the Rugby World Cup are still on track even though they slipped to a ninth successive defeat in a 24-18 loss to an under-strength South Africa on Saturday.

The Springboks rested 18 players following their Rugby Championship success last weekend, which was achieved with a 46-13 win over Argentina in Salta.

But this was a much more competitive fixture, if a little low on quality at times, and Argentina may well feel the bounce of the ball went against them or they might have been celebrating a victory.

“I am really proud of the effort, the engagement of the guys and the physicality,” Ledesma told reporters. “It is never easy to play over here at altitude against the South Africans, so we wanted to stand up tall.”

Ledesma made 10 changes to his team and said he will weigh up his options before naming his 31-man World Cup squad on Monday.

“We had many changes from last week, which complicates a little bit the list that we will give out on Monday,” he said.

The former national team hooker believes that results are not the only barometer of his side, and that recent narrow defeats to New Zealand, Australia and now South Africa should be seen in context.

“If you are only looking at the results and one game (in isolation), then you are not looking at the big picture and one day you are happy, the next you are sad,” he said.

“If you know where you are going and what your purpose is, then that is what counts.

“We had a bad game last week (in Salta), especially the forwards, but we stood up today and it was a really physical game.”

With a little over a month remaining before the start of the World Cup, where Argentina have been pooled with England, France, United States and Tonga, Ledesma appears to be running out of time to find the right formula.

“Like the English say, a week is a long time and if you compare what we did last week to what we did today... well, we still have a month to work on things and that is a very long time,” he said.

“We have been working with 46 guys. Once you give that 31-man squad you are going to work with those guys only.” (Reporting By Nick Said, editing by Pritha Sarkar)

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