'It feels a lot better,' says Ledesma after narrow loss

AFP
Argentina coach Mario Ledesma played 84 times for the Pumas (AFP Photo/Patrick HAMILTON)
Argentina coach Mario Ledesma played 84 times for the Pumas (AFP Photo/Patrick HAMILTON)

Pretoria (AFP) - Argentina coach Mario Ledesma said on Saturday that "it feels a lot better" despite losing to South Africa for the second successive weekend.

The Pumas fell 24-18 to the Springboks in a World Cup warm-up Test in Pretoria seven days after suffering a 33-point drubbing at home in the Rugby Championship.

It was the second lowest Argentine losing margin from 12 Test losses in South Africa.

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Argentina impressed with hard-hitting defence and robust forward play during a Pretoria Test in which they had a couple of tries disallowed.

"Boy, it feels a lot better," said former hooker Ledesma, who replaced struggling Daniel Hourcade in the middle of last year.

"Looking at the big picture, we know where we are going. We had a bad game last week, especially our forwards, but we stood up today and were really physical.

"We had tries disallowed tonight and I thought one of them was a try. We were camped in their 22 a couple of times and they defended well.

"It is very difficult at altitude against South Africa, but we wanted to send a message and stand up.

"It has complicated my list a bit, which will be announced on Monday, but it showed that a week is a long time, if you compare last week to today.

"We still have a month before the World Cup. There is a lot to do but everything will fall into place," vowed Ledesma.

"The situation is really dynamic and I do not see the four southern hemisphere teams making the semi-finals like at the last tournament in 2015.

"Northern hemisphere teams have done their homework and they are really good sides as you can see by Wales winning 14 matches in a row and England 18 in succession between the World Cups, plus Ireland beating the All Blacks twice."

This was Argentina's ninth consecutive defeat since beating Australia 23-19 on the Gold Coast last September.

Skipper and flanker Pablo Matera said part of their problem has been trying to shoehorn the Europe-based players into the Jaguares line-up that made the Super Rugby final this year.

"We have 10 players from teams in Europe and 30 from the Jaguares and one month ago we got together," he said.

"We are trying to play one way, but sometimes it is difficult and does not work. But you could see that spark today, we were really physical and had a good scrum.

"The pack gave space and time for the backs because we played hard on the gain line."

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