Wynne Gray

Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

Rugby: Pumas still searching for that elusive win

Argentina stared at rugby history twice and blinked.

Their eyes are still shiny, waiting for their first win against the All Blacks after narrow misses in 1985 and 2001.

They are in their second season in the big boys' club now, invited into the Rugby Championship where they also tangle with the Springboks and the Wallabies.

Their best result in eight matches is a stalemate with the Springboks last season, while they ran the All Blacks close in Wellington before being handed a 54-15 lesson when they tried to match their enterprise in La Plata.

The Pumas deserved wins in 1985 and 2001 but could not get their emotion, actions and belief to match.

They have played the All Blacks 16 times but like other senior rugby nations - Scotland, Ireland and Italy - have yet to win.

Loosehead prop Marcos Ayerza has studied the patterns and worked his way around the rugby globe while playing eight seasons for the Leicester club in England.

He thought the relentless pressure the All Blacks felt from their supporters and their coaching staff gave them an edge to perform all the time.

Exposure to those expectations toughened their minds and attitudes.

"They have to be at their best week in and week out and that is something that players are used to," he said.

The Pumas did not face the same strain but the All Blacks thrived and delivered under that mental pressure.

He hoped the Pumas had a scrum to give the All Blacks a nudge but that area was a new component for every side.

"The challenge is to get a good hit with a non-existent gap and to keep the co-ordination of the eight."

Every prop was working to get an advantage and find ways of getting some momentum from the crouch, bind, set commands, he said.

"I am in favour of the positive scrums. The rules before this were making not very good props, not very positive props. Referees did not know who was at fault."

The new scheme was about getting some order into a strength and co-ordination contest which officials could judge, Ayerza said.

Pumas halfback Martin Landajo is not a great fan of the slow sequence but concedes the new commands are fair for both sides.

He believes the visitors can build on the confidence gained from their latest close loss to the Boks, and with captain Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe back there would be even more direction and determination.

- NZ Herald

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