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Argentina continue to prove that rapid SVNS rise isn’t ‘a coincidence’

By Finn Morton
The Argentina men's team celebrate after winning the Cape Town SVNS in December, 2023. Picture: World Rugby.

Argentina have shown the rugby world that their rapid rise to the top of the men’s HSBC SVNS standings is not “a coincidence” after taking out cup final glory in Cape Town last weekend.

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With an opportunity to redeem themselves in the Western Cape after losing the Dubai SVNS final a week before, the Los Pumas Sevens took full advantage in front of a vocal South African crowd.

Dominant wins over Spain and France saw the Argentines book their spot in the knockout rounds, but a tough 19-12 defeat to traditional sevens powerhouse Fiji saw them finish second in Pool B.

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But champions aren’t crowned at the end of pool play. Argentina took their game to an all-new level on Sunday with a 33-nil blitz of Canada and a win over giant slayers Ireland.

Argentina saved their best for last, though, as they handed Australia a disastrous 45-12 loss under the stars in one of the most one-sided cup finals in recent memory.

“It’s really good. As I told you after the semi-finals, we are trying to demonstrate that last season and Dubai wasn’t a coincidence,” Marcos Moneta told reporters.

“Playing another final again has been great and now to win it is better so we’re really happy for the team and also for Santiago Mare, he’s a new guy that joined… never won a gold medal on the circuit.”

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Led by last season’s World Rugby Sevens Player of the Year nominee Marcos Moneta, Argentina have shot out to a headline-grabbing eight-point lead on the overall series standings.

Moneta, who is currently the equal-top try scorer in the men’s series, was named in the Dubai Dream Team and was among the standouts once again during the triumphant campaign in Cape Town.

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But what makes this Los Pumas Sevens side so special and successful is that it’s not about just one player. Matias Osadczuk and German Schulz made last weekend’s Dream Team, and others were surely in the mix.

After taking out a bronze medal at the Tokyo Games in 2021, and ending a 14-year World Series cup final drought shortly after, Moneta and others have shone in the coveted Argentina jersey.

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“Me and the team are extremely grateful for the people that support us,” Moneta added while still dripping after jumping in the pool at the Cape Town Stadium.

“The players that didn’t have the chance to play here and stayed in Buenos Aires, our friends… all the people that support us, we are extremely grateful for them.

“It’s tough to travel because we are in the other part of the world. To come here we have to go to Dubai (9 hours) and then we have to go to Argentina.

“But when things like this happen it’s incredible.”

 

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Poorfour 5 hours ago
The AI advantage: How the next two Rugby World Cups will be won

AI models are really just larger and less transparent variants of the statistical models that have been in use since Moneyball was invented. And a big difference between the Icahn centre’s results and AI today is that ChatGPT-like Large Language Models can explain (to some degree) how they reached their conclusions. In terms of what impact they will have, I suspect it will have two primary impacts: 1) It will place a premium on coaching creativity 2) It will lead to more selections that baffle fans and pundits. Analysts will be able to run the models both ways: they will see their own team’s and players’ weaknesses and strengths as well as the opposition’s. So they will have a good idea at what the other team will be targeting and the decisive difference may well be which coaches are smart enough to think of a gameplan that the other side didn’t identify and prepare for. For players, it places a premium on three key things: 1) Having a relatively complete game with no major weaknesses (or the dedication to work on eliminating them) 2) Having the tactical flexibility to play a different game every week 3) Having a point of difference that is so compelling that there isn’t a defence for it. (3) is relatively rare even among pro players. There have been only a handful of players over the years where you knew what they were going to do and the problem was stopping it - Lomu would be the classic example. And even when someone does have that, it’s hard to sustain. Billy Vunipola in his prime was very hard to stop, but fell away quite badly when the toll on his body began to accumulate. So coaches will look for (1) - a lack of exploitable weaknesses - and (2) - the ability to exploit others’ weaknesses - ahead of hoping for (3), at least for the majority of the pack. Which is likely to mean that, as with the original Moneyball, competent, unshowy players who do the stuff that wins matches will win out over outrageous talents who can’t adapt to cover their own weaknesses. Which will leave a lot of people on the sidelines sputtering over the non-inclusion of players whose highlights reels are spectacular, but whose lowlight reels have been uncovered by AI… at least until the point where every fan has access to a sporting analysis AI.

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