This version of Los Pumas in the Tri-Nations series excited me as much or more than the third place in the World Cup in France or the fourth place in the World Cup in England due to the countless setbacks they had to deal with.
Several quarantines in different countries and two groups of players, some who came from Europe but were only able to get together the week before the debut with a victory against nothing more and nothing less than the All Blacks, a team that they had never beaten before.
Most of the players hadn’t seen their family and friends in the last four months and have been through several countries with only a bag of clothes in tow.
There was the huge disadvantage of having hardly played rugby for many months and having to endure four matches in four consecutive weeks against teams that rested 15 days between matches.
It should not be forgotten that between the All Blacks and the Wallabies have won more than 50 per cent of the world titles that have been played so far, compared to a nation where the best results are a third and fourth place.
And all ending in the last week with Pablo Matera-gate.
But this team overcame all that and it speaks to great mental preparation to become strong in the face of adversity, knowing their limitations and replacing them with great courage and dedication on the field. 90 per cent of these players are a great brotherhood who have been playing together since Jaguares began and they are a team of friends where they welcomed a number of young players without international experience and helped them to connect quickly by transmitting both rugby and mental knowledge.
This was clearly seen in this last game where a couple of key players had to be replaced, one of them the captain.
I think we should also highlight the staff that has been criticised so many times, especially after the poor performance in the last World Cup in Japan.
Mario Ledesma’s courage to call Michael Cheika to collaborate in the preparation of this team is something unusual, but it clearly speaks to the fact that this is an older Ledesma who has put aside pride a bit and understood that something that helps the team will help him.
His assistants play a fundamental role in transmitting ideas and taking care of all the details to try to get the players to execute an idea of the game on the field. The clearest example could be seen in the form of the tackle that was executed by Los Pumas for the first time and surprised opponents with its rugby league style, something that is not practised or seen in Argentina, which makes it more difficult to execute.
Obviously there are several things to improve, especially a cleaner and creating more offensive moves, but defences win championships and that went very well considering the quality of the teams that they faced.
The objective of participating in this tournament was preparation for France 2023 and if this is the starting point, Los Pumas are doing quite well. Not everyone travels to distant lands to play against teams well above their ranking and returns with a record of one game won, one lost and two tied. I am sure that many of the teams from the so-called Tier One nations will be very attentive in the group draw for the next World Cup and crossing their fingers so that Los Pumas do not get drawn with them.
Let’s celebrate this atypical end of the year. I wish you good luck and I hope that we will meet again soon.