Pumas name familiar lineup to face the Boks
Argentina will go into their Rugby Championship opener against South Africa with a team that pretty much got them into and out of the Super Rugby playoffs earlier this year.
From the starting line-up that ran out against the Lions in the quarterfinals of Super Rugby only centres Matias Orlando and Jéronimo De La Fuente don’t feature in new coach Mario Ledesma’s team for Saturday’s clash against the Springboks at King’s Park.
Matias Moroni‚ who played wing against the Lions‚ is in midfield alongside Bautista Ezcurra.
The biggest addition to Ledesma’s squad however is the introduction of grizzled tighthead Juan Figallo.
The 30 year-old is so highly regarded by former hooker Ledesma that he got special dispensation from the Argentina Rugby Union to select a player who campaigns outside the country. Figallo plies his trade with Saracens in the rough and tumble of the Premiership and European competitions.
After the 2015 Rugby World Cup where Los Pumas finished fourth‚ Argentina have only selected home-based players in their Test team. The team has‚ however‚ underperformed and have recorded just three wins in their last 23 Tests.
Ledesma‚ who has just taken over the reins‚ begged for reinforcements.
He made eight changes to the side that lost 44-15 to Scotland in their last Test in June. Only fullback Emiliano Boffelli‚ wing Bautista Delguy‚ inside centre Ezcurra and flyhalf Nicolas Sanchez survive from the starting backline against Scotland.
Figallo wasn’t part of the original 36-man squad but he has been catapulted right into the starting team. He will no doubt bring more steel and experience to a Pumas team Ledesma is desperate to return to basics.
The coach has spoken passionately about improving the side’s defence‚ improving their discipline and restoring not just grunt but consistency to their scrum. Figallo will be central to the latter objective.
Argentina XV: Emiliano Boffelli; Bautista Delguy‚ Matías Moroni‚ Bautista Ezcurra‚ Ramiro Moyano; Nicolás Sánchez‚ Gonzalo Bertranou; Javier Ortega Desio‚ Marcos Kremer‚ Pablo Matera; Matías Alemanno‚ Guido Petti; Juan Figallo‚ Agustín Creevy (captain)‚ Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro.
Substitutes: Diego Fortuny‚ Santiago García Botta‚ Santiago Medrano‚ Tomás Lavanini‚ Tomás Lezana; Martín Landajo‚ Santiago Gonzalez Iglesias‚ Juan Cruz Mallia.