MENDOZA, Argentina (Reuters) - Argentina’s Rugby Championship win over South Africa was a reflection of the Pumas’ steady progress, captain Agustin Creevy said, as the South Americans turn their focus to world champions New Zealand.
The 32-19 victory over the Springboks at the Estadio Malvinas Argentinas on Saturday was only their fourth win in the southern hemisphere tournament in 35 games.
However, it came on the back of a playoff place for the nation’s Jaguares team in the Super Rugby competition and a coaching change that has given the Pumas an air of confidence.
“This victory has a very nice taste, because we’ve come from a long streak without winning. To do it in this stadium, against South Africa, it is one of our best triumphs, it is very important,” Creevy told reporters.
“Every year that goes by we are progressing. Today we played with a lot of head, we knew how to play them.
“It’s no coincidence, today I think we’re standing in a good place, we know where we’re going, we know what’s good for us and what doesn’t work for us. That’s why it’s very encouraging for the work we’ve been doing.”
Mario Ledesma, in his only second match as coach, said an emphasis on the basics in training had been key to Saturday’s triumph.
“We repeated throughout the week that if we improved foundational things we could win: defence, point of contact, winning the ball. It was not magic. If we improved that, then we were going to create opportunities,” he told reporters.
“The idea is to be obsessed with improving. In the matches, in training, in the meetings. And focus a lot on us and on what we can control ourselves.”
Even long spells without the ball in the second half as the Springboks tried to overturn a 20-point deficit saw Argentina stick to a disciplined defence.
“We have to improve that because it’s very difficult to keep the opponent at bay, defending the 40 minutes.
“I think the guys did a spectacular job because although they pulled back a couple of tries, we managed to contain them at a distance from our line.”
Next up is a trip away to the All Blacks, who are runaway favourites to retain their title and have shown their pedigree again with two thrashings of Australia over the last fortnight.
“Now something totally different is coming and we are going to face a team that has scored 40 points in their first two matches,” said Ledesma.
“Now we are focusing on seeing how we can improve day by day and that for this group of players to start writing a new story looking ahead.”
Argentina play the All Blacks in Nelson on Sept 8.
Reporting by Mark Gleeson in Cape Town; Editing by Ian Ransom