Hourcade hails 'huge-hearted' Argentina

Sun, 28 Aug 2016 09:46

REACTION: Argentina coach Daniel Hourcade hailed his "huge-hearted" team on Sunday after a 26-24 Rugby Championship triumph over South Africa - their first at home against the twice former world champions. 

"Several key players had to retire injured during the second half and we showed huge hearts in the face of adversity," the 58-year-old told reporters in north-western city Salta.

"The team played fantastic rugby during the opening half and the 10-point lead at half-time was not an accurate reflection of our superiority.

"Injuries upset our rhythm in the second half, but we deserved to win. We were better than South Africa," he said.

Star flyhalf Nicolas Sanchez, the leading points scorer at the 2015 World Cup in England, was forced to leave the field just minutes into the second half.

His face was covered in blood, preventing him from returning, and hero-to-be Santiago Gonzalez Iglesias took over the playmaker role.

Thirteen minutes from time the Pumas suffered another crippling low when veteran centre Juan Martin Hernandez was stretchered off.

With first and second choice goal-kickers Sanchez and Hernandez sidelined, Iglesias became the toast of Argentina by slotting the late, match-winning penalty from 40 metres.

It was the first victory for the Pumas in 12 home Tests against the Springboks after a draw and 10 defeats since they first met in 1993.

Last year, Argentina overcame South Africa for the first time, winning in Durban with the help of three tries from Juan Imhoff, and last weekend they were unlucky 30-23 losers in Nelspruit.

France-based Imhoff is no longer considered for selection as Hourcade relies almost exclusively on players from Buenos Aires-based Super Rugby outfit the Jaguares.

The only 'outsider' in the Salta matchday 23 was reserve scrumhalf Tomas Cubelli from Canberra-based Super Rugby team Brumbies.

Cubelli, came on the field in the second half, said a midweek video session with Hourcade and his assistants was pivotal to success in Salta.

"The coaches showed us the final 10 minutes, when 17 points were conceded, and we saw all our errors," he said.

"We threw away that game after being 10 points ahead and were determined not to repeat those mistakes in Salta."

Argentina resume their Championship campaign on September 10 with the toughest challenge of all - an away fixture against world champions New Zealand.

The All Blacks have a maximum 10 points after two rounds, South Africa and Argentina five each and title-holders Australia none.  

Agence France-Presse

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