SYDNEY (Reuters) - For a team looking to end a six-match losing streak, Argentina are approaching Saturday’s Rugby Championship test against Australia in Brisbane with plenty of confidence.
Buoyed by the Super Rugby success of the Jaguares, whose players make up a large majority of the squad, the Pumas will take on the Wallabies at Lang Park a week after running the All Blacks close in their tournament opener.
If that 20-16 defeat in Buenos Aires was an indication they could hold their own against the very best, they can also draw comfort from the fact their last win came against Australia on the Gold Coast last year.
That they gave up a 31-7 halftime lead to lose the return match on home soil a few weeks later will clearly still rankle, but coach Mario Ledesma said concentrating purely on results was not the way to progress.
“If you focus too much on results, you never get them so we are focusing on processes and systems and doing the right things and then, hopefully they will come,” the former Wallabies scrum coach told reporters at Lang Park on Friday.
“But, we weren’t far away from a couple of results not only last week, but last year, obviously against Australia there in Salta and then in November, we should have won against Scotland, but not good enough.”
With the World Cup less than two months away, Argentina will be desperate to snap their losing streak and even if his coach is focusing more on processes, captain Pablo Matera has his eye firmly on notching a mark in the win column on Saturday.
“It’s a big game for us,” said the powerful loose forward, who played a major role in getting the Jaguares to the Super Rugby final.
“We’re coming off a good game but we couldn’t win, so we are really looking forward to getting our first win in the Rugby Championship.”
Australia captain Michael Hooper, whose New South Wales Waratahs had their Super Rugby season effectively ended by the Jaguares in Sydney a couple of months ago, said there was plenty to like about Argentinan rugby at the moment.
“Four years ago we played them in a World Cup semi-final and they have been improving since then, Super Rugby and international,” he told a news conference.
“They are a very quality, a real quality side - defensively, attackingly, they have threats all over the park. Really good kicking game, smart operators in their playmaking positions.”
Australia are also coming off a defeat, in their case a less encouraging 35-17 thrashing at the hands of South Africa in their championship opener.
With just three victories in their last 13 tests, the Wallabies are also desperate to get a win on the board before they face the might of the All Blacks in back-to-back tests.
The team has been overhauled again after the Ellis Park defeat, where Hooper admitted the lines of communication, in defence in particular, had not functioned as well as they would have liked.
The indefatigable Australia captain is a great believer in the restorative powers of the training field, however, and he said there were signs this week the combinations were coming together.
“How we have done it this week has been a really good starting point for what the rest of the year can look like,” he said.
“Guys have moved into starting positions this week and it’s been pretty seamless.
“Obviously you’ve got different ways of players communicating, but understanding how each other communicate has been a focus for us, going through the week and understanding each other and those little mini groups within the team.”
Reporting by Nick Mulvenney, editing by Sudipto Ganguly