BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) - Argentina are preparing for Saturday’s game against Australia safe in the knowledge this is already their best year in the Rugby Championship but loose forward Javier Ortega believes it is only the start for Mario Ledesma’s team.
The Pumas take on the Wallabies in Salta (kickoff 2240 GMT)looking for a third win in six games, after never before having won two in any championship since they joined the southern hemisphere’s elite in 2012.
Ortega, who has started all five of the games so far this year, said the home side are confident and capable of consigning the Wallabies to the wooden spoon for the first time in the Rugby Championship.
“Can we beat anyone?” he asked. “I certainly think so, we have the potential to beat anyone, we have great players.
“We’ve got the raw materials and we’ve got the game, and we’ve scored tries against the best teams in the world. In time, this team is going to be spectacular.”
Argentina beat Australia last month in the Gold Coast, just a few weeks after overcoming South Africa at home. The only team they have yet to beat is New Zealand, who took them apart in a commanding first half last week in Buenos Aires.
Nevertheless, losing 35-17 to the world champions is no disgrace and Argentina have looked like a different side since Daniel Hourcade resigned in June following a run of just two wins in 17 games.
They currently sit three points above the Australians and a draw or a win for the home side would leave the visitors with the wooden spoon for the first time since the tournament was expanded six years ago.
Wallabies coach Michael Cheika has made two changes to the team that lost to South Africa last weekend, bringing back Bernard Foley at flyhalf and moving Kurtley Beale to inside centre.
The Wallabies want to avoid the ignominy of a last-place finish and they are convinced recent near misses will soon turn into tries. Argentina, they hope, will be the ones to suffer.
“We’re creating opportunities, we’re getting down in the right areas but not converting,” Foley told reporters.
“It’s been a challenging time, we’ve all had self-assessments, we’ve all had assessments from each other.
“So in terms of going out there and putting that in place is probably the biggest thing and I am excited for what these guys can do.
“We’ve just to crack it and hopefully the floodgates will open.”
Writing by Andrew Downie, reporting by Ramiro Scandolo; Editing by Greg Stutchbury