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photo credit: Rodrigo Vergara / UAR

Pumas Grades in 2017 Rugby Championship

Argentina were outperformed in the Rugby Championship. The team  lost every match, conceding a bonus point defeat in all six games. While there were ocassions in which the team was leading at half time or into the second half Los Pumas realistically never looked like winning a game.

To better understand the team’s overall frailties this article looks at the Pumas grades in the 2017 Rugby Championship. Positions have been graded according to the performances from players in each position.

  • 5 Stars = Excellent
  • 4 Stars = Very Good
  • 3 Stars = Acceptable
  • 2 Stars = Barely sufficient
  • 1 Star = Unsatisfactory

Before going further it must be stressed that in order to win against Rugby Championship opposition players must be averaging 4 stars or higher. Argentina’s win against South Africa in 2015 showcased this with Marcos Ayerza, Marcelo Bosch, Agustín Creevy, Tomás Cubelli, Juan Martín Hernández, Jerónimo de la Fuente, Juan Imhoff, Tomás Lavanini, Pablo Matera and Guido Petti all meeting this criteria. Most of them had 5 star performances.

Later that year against Ireland many of the same names featured heavily in the Quarter Final triumph in Wales. In fact of the starting line-up all fifteen players performed at either a 4 or 5 star level. Changes from Durban included Santiago Cordero who created two tries, Nicolás Sánchez who was man-of-the-match, Ramiro Herrera who carried superbly, Juan Martín Fernández Lobbe who had a stellar afternoon, Martín Landajo who organized play very well and Matías Moroni who scored the opening try.

Argentina won these, and other, matches by getting the better of the opponents. It was both the team winning and also the individual outplaying his opponent. In 2016-2017 the norm has been vastly different. Losses against Australia, England, France, New Zealand, Scotland, South Africa and Wales all had the common theme of the majority of Pumas delivering 3 star, or lower performances.

Loose Head Prop: 1 Star
Argentina do not have a replacement for Marcos Ayerza. The scrum problems are well documented with youth unable to give Los Pumas the Ayerza platform. Lucas Noguera Paz was Argentina’s best Loose Head around the park in the Rugby Championship. Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro also started but was badly outplayed by South Africa. Santiago García Botta failed to be effective from the bench.

Likely Starter in November: 1 Lucas Noguera Paz

Hooker: 5 Stars
Agustín Creevy had a fabulous Rugby Championship. He was highly accurate in line-outs, tackled brilliantly, off-loaded when in attack, made plenty of yards and won turn-overs. He put in a 5 star performance against New Zealand in New Plymouth and did so again in Canberra the following week. From the bench Julián Montoya was excellent in support.

Likely Starter in November: 2 Agustín Creevy

Tight Head Prop: 1 Star
Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro, Enrique Pieretto and Ramiro Herrera all had opportunities. All three were out-played. The scrum had no rock to hold it together and ball-carrying limitations were highly evident from Tetaz Chaparro and Pieretto. There is little room for optimism considering Herrera’s imminent departure to Stade Français. Argentina are in a race against time to produce a player of the level of Mauricio Reggiardo, Juan Figallo, Omar Hasan or Martín Scelzo.

Likely Starter in November: 3 Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro

Second-row: 5 Stars
Matías Alemanno, Guido Petti and Marcos Kremer all had at least one 5-Star performance each in the tournament. For this very reason the Pumas second-row department earns the top grade. Notwithstanding Tomás Lavanini’s discipline remains a hot talking point. His involvement in the upcoming European Tour may be in a supporting rather than leading capacity.

Likely Starters in November: 4 Guido Petti, 5 Matías Alemanno

Left Flanker: 5 Stars
Creevy is rightly regarded for his consistency. The same is true of Pablo Matera. The 24-year-old had a world class Rugby Championship. He had five star matches against all opposition in the Rugby Championship. He made line-breaks, solid tackles, successful off-loads and won turn-overs.

Likely Starter in November: 6 Pablo Matera

Right Flanker: 2 Stars 
Matera held down the 6 shirt for Argentina. He was partnered at flanker by both Javier Ortega Desio and Tomás Lezana. Of them the former was defensively inept. Ortega Desio missed tackles which saw opposition backs and forwards scoring. Tomás Lezana was better organized on defense and also superior as a ball-carrier. With players impressing in the second-row and this position being of concern thinking differently for November would be wise.

Likely Starter in November: 7 Marcos Kremer

No 8: 3 Stars
The conversion of Lezana from flanker to No 8 was a success. His performance against Australia in Canberra was the best by an Argentine No 8 in the tournament. The next best was Benjamín Macome against New Zealand in New Plymouth. Both were 5 star performances. Veterans Juan Manuel Leguizamón and Leonardo Senatore both also started but neither player performed well. As such the overall rating stands at 3 Stars.

Likely Starter in November: 8 Tomás Lezana

Scrum-half: 3 Stars
Argentina’s best performance from scrum half was that of Tomás Cubelli against New Zealand. It was his first of two starts in the competition and notably above the performances of Martín Landajo. He was smart in option taking, distributed well, ran well and organized the back smartly. A charge-down led to a New Zealand try, as such it was a 4-star performance. Landajo was a mixed bag in impressing vs New Zealand in Buenos Aires but was frequently erratic against South Africa and Australia.

Likely Starter in November: 9 Martín Landajo

Fly Half: 2 Stars
A 1 star performance from Nicolás Sánchez in the opening match was replicated by Juan Martín Hernández in week two. They got better as the tournament went on but neither player threatened to reach the standards of prior years. Santiago González Iglesias also featured, doing so as a replacement. A lack of alternatives in the Jaguares system hurt Argentina at fly half. All opponents out performed Argentina at 10.

Likely Starter in November: 10 Nicolás Sánchez

Left Wing: 3 Stars
Emiliano Boffelli and Ramiro Moyano both started and both played well. They both have the talent to be 5-star performers but did not get beyond 4-star in the tournament. Boffelli also worked well when used at fullback. Moyano played on both wings and would have played more had he not been injured. Opposition wingers scored more tries, a fact which sees the scoring of both players at 3-stars.

Likely Starter in November: 11 Emiliano Boffelli

Inside Center: 3 Stars
Argentina’s best back in the competition was Jerónimo de la Fuente. Yet his performances were 3-stars not higher. de la Fuente played well but not as well as he did against South Africa or Tonga in 2015. In those matches he performed higher. Santiago González Iglesias had a 4-star match against Australia in Mendoza.

Likely Starter in November: 12 Jerónimo de la Fuente

Outside Center: 2 Stars
The loss of Marcelo Bosch to Argentina is noted but not for the genuine reasons. Yes he has a long-range boot and yes he offers a lot in attack. But what made him world class was these factors combined with his defense. His ability to read play saw him saving Argentina with regularity. He was the glue that is now missing. Matías Moroni and Matías Orlando both had starts though the level was below Bosch. Moroni’s game against New Zealand was the only performance above 3-stars.

Likely Starter in November: 13 Matías Orlando

Right Wing: 2 Stars
Ramiro Moyano had starts here as did Santiago Cordero and Matías Moroni. Manuel Montero got game time from the bench in Canberra. All are talented players but Daniel Hourcade was unable to settle. Moroni ended up being used the most, thereby a player was fielded out of position. Santiago Cordero was badly handled, a shame given how potent he was at Rugby World Cup 2015. Moroni had errors in both attack and defense which saw the opposition score and cost Argentina scoring opportunities.

Likely Starter in November: 14 Santiago Cordero

Fullback: 3 Stars
The ever-reliable Joaquín Tuculet was steady under the high-ball and threatened on the counter-attack. He played well without reaching 4-star level. His lapse in defense in Mendoza which allowed Reece Hodge to score should never have happened. Boffelli has a 3-star performance in his game at the back. Overall fullback is well covered by Argentina but the level has dropped since 2015.

Likely Starter in November: 15 Joaquín Tuculet

Conclusion
The individual positions demonstrate that overall the scores were low. Certain positions were strong though they were counter-balanced by 2-star and 1-star showings. There was a clear lack of general high performances in 2017, a notable change from the 2015 Quarter Final win over Ireland.

  • Forwards: 3.3 Stars
  • Backs: 2.5 Stars
  • Overall: 3 Stars

About Paul Tait

EDITOR / ARGENTINA / SOUTH AMERICA ... has been covering the sport since 2007. Rising from the ranks as a player, coach, and referee, he has published two books to go with articles on various international websites including the World Rugby page.

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