Argentina display Pumas spirit in upsetting South Africa

South Africa captain Jean de Villiers fractured his jaw in tough encounter

Argentina’s lock Tomas Lavanini gets ready to clear the ball during the Test match between South Africa and Argentina  in Durban. Photograph: Gianluigi Guercia/AFP/Getty Images

Argentina’s lock Tomas Lavanini gets ready to clear the ball during the Test match between South Africa and Argentina in Durban. Photograph: Gianluigi Guercia/AFP/Getty Images

 

Argentina have prided themselves on their Pumas spirit to overcome seemingly insurmountable odds and Saturday’s 37-25 victory over South Africa is another high point for them since finishing third in the 2007 World Cup.

It was this fighting spirit that brought out a remarkable performance after heavy losses to New Zealand and Australia earlier in the Rugby Championship had questioned their ability to put 80 good minutes together with the 2015 World Cup looming next month.

Absorbing extra energy from the presence in the stands at King’s Park of the original Pumas, who had made their first mark in 1965 with a 11-6 victory over the Junior Springboks at Ellis Park, Argentina had that spirit in abundance.

“Rugby has psychological moments and today (Saturday) the Pumas won all the psychological moments,” former Argentina captain Hector Silva, a veteran of the 1965 tour, was quoted as saying in the Argentine daily La Nacion.

The Argentinian media made a lot of the presence of 1965 Pumas at the match and the significance of a symbolic closing of the circle with wing Juan Imhoff involved in all four tries, scoring three of them, watched by his ex-Puma father Jose Luis.

“A victory like that looking to the World Cup comes in very well, not only for [Argentina’s] game but also spiritually and for the players’ conviction,” said Pumas great Hugo Porta, who inspired a South America XV to victory over South Africa in Bloemfontein in 1982.

Coach Daniel Hourcade, who since taking charge in November 2013 has overseen two Rugby Championship victories with the first against Australia in Mendoza on the last day of the 2014 tournament, saw much of his work to make Argentina a more attacking unit came to fruition.

“When we had to defend we defended, we recovered our [best] scrum. Then South Africa had to react but we had a big [points] difference that we were able to maintain,” he said after Argentina’s first ever victory over South Africa. “This was deserved, very fair and it gives us a lot of confidence for what’s to come,”

Meanwhile, South Africa captain Jean de Villiers has suffered another injury set-back and has been ruled out for four weeks with a fractured jaw following the loss to Argentina at King’s Park.

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