World champions South Africa are Argentina’s dream rugby rival, the team they always want to compete against. Just not right now.
On the eve of Wednesday’s trip to Johannesburg for a one-off Test next week to celebrate Nelson Mandela’s 90th birthday, pessimism abounded among the 26-man Pumas squad.
News 24 reports that most of the players are returning from vacation and inspirational captain Agustin Pichot retired from the Pumas rather than play while unfit. South Africa, on the other hand, were in the middle of their season and in top shape.
“It’s not the moment to compete against the Springboks,” said hooker Mario Ledesma, one of the team’s 15 World Cup players. “We’re not going there in the best of conditions and the majority are getting back from vacations.
“The pre-season games are usually played against a weaker team and we have to go up against the world champion.”
Center Miguel Avramovic agreed.
“The South Africans are in full activity and playing in the Tri-Nations,” Avramovic said. “I hope we win, but the only thing I’m sure about is that when the game finishes I’m going to be completely out of gas.”
There was good news for the Pumas, with the late addition of World Cup loose forward Juan Fernandez Lobbe, whose Sale club originally wouldn’t release him.
In another late change, CUBA flyhalf Benjamin Urdapilleta replaced Santiago Fernandez, who had to withdraw after breaking his wrist playing for Hindu last week.
Also unavailable were star No 10 Juan Martin Hernandez and Marcelo Bosch, both injured, and Tomas de Vedia and Gonzalo Tiesi, who were not released by their English clubs.
Coach Santiago Phelan tried to remain optimistic for the Mandela Tribute match at Ellis Park on Aug 9.
“Now we have to strengthen ourselves with the players we have, give them the support we can and believe that they are the best ones to be out there playing,” Phelan said on Tuesday.
South Africa announced on Monday their 30-man squad, 18 of whom won the World Cup in France last year.
Argentina: Horacio Agulla, Patricio Albacete, Rimas Alvarez Kairelis, Miguel Avramovic, Lucas Borges, Rafael Carballo, Manuel Carizza, Felipe Contepomi (captain), Martin Durand, Juan Fernandez Lobbe, Alvaro Galindo, Juan Francisco Gomez, Pablo Henn, Alfredo Lalanne, Pedro Ledesma, Mario Ledesma, Juan Manuel Leguizamon, Esteban Lozada, Federico Martin Aramburu, Jose Maria Nunez Piossek, Rodrigo Roncero, Hernan Senillosa, Bernardo Stortoni, Benjamin Urdapilleta, Nicolas Vergallo, Alberto Vernet Basualdo.Tweet