'We had 4 training sessions to play South Africa': Ledesma on Pumas plight
Los Pumas head coach Mario Ledesma has lifted the lid on his side’s shortcomings following their 39-0 defeat to the All Blacks on the Gold Coast on Sunday.
Argentina’s loss to the New Zealander was their third heavy defeat in a row after two losses to South Africa to open their Rugby Championship campaign.
The results between last year’s Tri-Nations and this year’s Rugby Championship for Los Pumas have been stark, which has raised questions to what hand they have been dealt.
In 2020, with the Jaguares in Super Rugby, their season was still aligned with the southern hemisphere and their players were still playing together.
Although they had a long break between getting on the field again in the Tri-Nations, the team spent months together to prepare while in Australia.
In 2021, the situation is vastly different as Argentina deals with not having a Super Rugby franchise anymore and having nearly all their players based in Europe aligned with a different calendar.
“Look, there is not a simple answer to that. Since last year, we’ve been living with adversity,” Ledesma explained of the challenges his side has faced.
“March last year, we lost Super Rugby, and then players had to go elsewhere, find another job. On one hand, it was that, and we lost any ‘tier one competition’, let’s put it that way, in terms of franchise.
“So, we had to find our way in South America with what we’ve got. Now, 90 percent of our players, if not more, that started today are playing in the northern hemisphere and we are competing in the southern hemisphere.
“These guys finished their season a month ago, or a little bit more, then they play the July tests, then they went on holiday and back from holiday we had four training sessions to play South Africa.
“So, the first game of the pre-season, that normally you are playing in orange [for the Jaguares], you are playing against South Africa.”
Ledesma went on to take aim at the welfare of his players as he added that, when it comes to what Los Pumas are expected to do, “nobody seems to care” when compared to the accomodations made for bigger nations.
“All the player welfare, giving them rest and stuff like that, that got thrown out the window. Nobody seems to care,” he said.
“When it is one of the top teams, when it comes to quarantine, travelling and this and that, it seems to be a big issue, player welfare and mental health.
“When it’s against Argentina, nobody seems to care, nobody was talking about us being in quarantine.”
“We take it on the chin. It is what it is. I’m not putting it as an excuse, but that is the reality.”
Dissecting their most recent loss at Cbus Super Stadium, head coach Mario Ledesma conceded that his side’s discipline is a problem as they racked up 18 penalties while playing with 14 men for two 10-minute periods.
He said that giving the All Blacks “so much” is no way to beat them as they generally need much less ball to score tries.
“I think it was 65 percent possession and maybe more territory,” head coach Ledesma said post-match.
“18 penalties, two yellow cards, it is difficult to get into the game when you are giving them so much. Most of the time, they don’t need that much ball to score.
“At the same time, I was really proud of the effort because normally when you play like that against the All Blacks and you give them 70 percent territory and possession and that much penalties, two yellow cards, normally the score is much higher.
“Our boys made I think 210 tackles, 220 tackles. You don’t see those many tackles nowadays. Really proud of the effort, but we need to be more clinical.”
Having played both the number one and two sides in the world, Ledesma said there wasn’t a big difference between the two powers. With Los Pumas conceding so many penalties, he said it was “difficult” to get a grasp on either of the games.
“I wouldn’t say there is a big difference. I would say the common theme is ill-discipline,” the head coach said.
“We had, in the second game against South Africa, 23 penalties and we had 18 today and two yellow cards. A couple of those penalties came from penalty advantages, so you can add a couple of penalties too.
“It is difficult to get any grasp on the game when you are being so ill-disciplined.”
When asked if he was unhappy with the referee’s calls, Ledesma made it clear he wasn’t criticising the officials, only highlighting the issues with his side.
He said he wouldn’t be “putting any videos on the internet” and would talk to the referees behind closed doors if there were any issues.
“I’m saying what I’m saying. I’m saying we were ill-disciplined. I’m not putting any videos on the internet or stuff like that. I’m fine. If I have something to tell the refs, I’ll tell the refs.”
Under immense strain from the All Blacks’ attack for almost the entire match, Los Pumas were able to defend for long periods and withstand the pressure being thrown at them in patches.
They came up with a number of key steals in their own half at the breakdown, which was a positive, but Ledesma said they still couldn’t relieve themselves from those situations.
“Julian [Montoya] got a couple, Pablo [Matera] got a couple, but we didn’t capitalise on those occasions. Most of them finished as a lineout for them, 20 metres out, so the pressure was still there.
“Then when you have territory pressure, and scoreboard pressure against these kind of teams that are the best in the world, it gets too hard.”
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