PORT ELIZABETH, South Africa (Reuters) - Argentina’s recent slump continued with a 37-15 defeat to South Africa on Saturday that left coach Daniel Hourcade frustrated with their meekness in the scrums and errors with ball in hand.
The loss in their Rugby Championship opener at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium meant Argentina have just three wins in their previous 15 internationals - against a South African side enduring their worst ever season in 2016, Japan and Georgia.
Perhaps most surprising in their latest defeat was the ease with which the Springboks bullied the Pumas at the scrum, usually an area of strength for the South American side famous for their ‘Bajada’ movement at the set-piece.
“We urgently need to improve the scrum,” Hourcade told reporters.
“We can’t have five penalties and a free kick against us. From there came points or they took us into our half of the field and took away the initiative. We were not able to build momentum because of those penalties.”
Beyond the scrum, Hourcade admitted that the Boks also showed more physicality in the loose and applied pressure on his side that meant they spent much of the game defending.
“We attacked little and defended a lot. At times we did well or very well, but you can’t defend the whole game against a team like South Africa, which is in a great moment,” he said.
“That puts you under too much pressure. They were superior, they played better.”
Argentina will now host the Boks in Salta on Saturday, the scene of their 26-24 victory in last year’s championship, and Hourcade said using the ball with more intelligence and accuracy will be key for his side.
“We have to keep the ball, which we lost too easily,” he said.
“There were some opportunities on the field, but when you fail after a break, or you try to play out of a defensive position and you lose the ball with an unforced error, that hurts you.
“The Springboks had that great virtue, that of taking advantage of our mistakes, of which there were too many.”
Reporting By Nick Said; editing by Sudipto Ganguly