Los Pumas eye the unthinkable
SPOTLIGHT: Fitness or fatigue won’t be factors as the Pumas bid to turn the Tri-Nations upside down with another earth-shattering win over the All Blacks on Saturday.
The unfancied pre-tournament outsiders have emerged as potential champions after backing up their historic first-ever win over the All Blacks with a gritty draw against the Wallabies last Saturday.
If they can pick up anything from this week’s return bout with New Zealand in Newcastle – even a bonus point for a loss by fewer than seven points – the Pumas will be on the box seat to escort the coveted Tri-Nations trophy back to Argentina.
That would be a mighty effort for a team that hadn’t played a Test in more than 400 days before their series-opening triumph over the All Blacks.
Some members of Mario Ledesma’s squad have had to quarantine twice, for a total of 28 days, since spending a fortnight holed up first in Uruguay and then in Sydney after joining the Pumas from Europe.
Despite the gruelling campaign, the Pumas remain upbeat about their chances of collecting the most significant piece of silverware in Argentine rugby history.
“We are not looking for excuses. We are looking for our best performance on Saturday. That is our focus,” Pumas assistant coach Nicolas Fernandez-Miranda told AAP on Monday.
“We are feeling very good, we are feeling excited. These are two very important weeks for us.
“The first one is New Zealand, focusing on that, putting our mind, our physical fitness and everything together to be as sharp as we can be on Saturday.”
The All Blacks will be smarting after suffering successive Test defeats for the first time in 2011, having lost to the Wallabies in Brisbane before falling to the Pumas in Sydney.
But even if they hit back with a win this week, the All Blacks will have to await the result of the Pumas’ last-round showdown with the Wallabies in Sydney to learn their fate.
Third at the 2007 World Cup and semifinalists against in 2015, the Pumas are delighted to have control of their own destiny after fighting back from nine points down in the second half to secure a priceless 15-15 draw against the Wallabies at McDonald Jones Stadium.
“We are very proud of what we did in the first two games of the competition,” Fernandez-Miranda said.
“But our mind is on our job and what we are trying to do and trying to win this week as best as we can.
“I don’t know what people think in Argentina. We are very alone here and that’s very good for our team because we are just focused on the team and being as tight as we can and as together as we can.”