Argentina out ‘to show worth’
17 August 2012 | RUDOLPH JACOBS
CAPE TOWN – But he’s certainly got the message across that the Pumas are not competing in the inaugural Rugby Championship simply to make up the numbers.
They have never beaten the Springboks in 13 Tests and today will be the first time they will have the privilege of running out at Newlands, but Phelan has managed to keep his team focused on what is at stake.
“We have great confidence in our team’s ability,” he said this week in Cape Town, ahead of the historic game which will mark Argentina’s debut in the competition.
Phelan, a two-time World Cup representative for the Pumas on the flank, will be fully aware of the advice from former All Black coach Graham Henry that the team needs to have a more enthusiastic approach to their rugby, warning that perhaps classic Puma forward play and their classic bajada scrum might need more dimensions to compete with the top three in the world. While Bok midfielder Frans Steyn cautioned this week that South Africa should not consider themselves the favourites, Phelan said they were not not fooling themselves at what lies in front of them.
“Yes, it will be a very, very tough game,” the Puma coach admitted. “The reality is that we have never beaten the Springboks, but every game for us is an opportunity,” he was quick to add.
The magnitude of the occasion is something the Argentinian players have admitted is on their minds, although over 20 players were at the Rugby World Cup last year and several Pumas played at the 2007 tournament, where flyhalf Juan Martin Hernandez was arguably the player of the tournament.
But after a struggle to convince the powerhouse rugby unions of New Zealand, South Africa and Australia to allow them a place in the competition, the Pumas will be out to prove that they do belong.
“We always go onto the field with the intention of winning for Argentina,” the Puma coach said.
“This will be a new opportunity to give 100% and attempt to win the game,” he said.
Springbok hooker Bismarck du Plessis said Argentina’s arrival in Cape Town was a step for all the teams.
“It will be nice to have a different team to play against, and new opponents to square up to,” he said.
“There is a lot of respect between us and them and also a healthy rivalry because of the strong relationship the two nations have on the rugby field.
“There is already great history between South African and Argentinean Rugby.
“Doctor Danie Craven was one of the South Africans who helped them develop rugby in their country, and it is fitting that we are playing them in their first Rugby Championship match.
“Being part of that will be great for me,” Du Plessis said.
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