Throughout the 2015 Rugby World Cup, fans were treated to a number of terrific tackles, sensational shocks and incredible individual moments. However, as with most sports, team performances are much more important than individual efforts. While there were numerous immense team showings, Argentina may perhaps have been the best of the bunch.
Four years ago, Argentina were knocked out in the quarter-finals. This year, they reached the semi-final stage of the competition. Nowadays, they play a completely unique, attacking brand of rugby that is both easy on the eye and efficient.
Although they spread the play quickly, Argentina’s stars very rarely make individual errors – which is crucial to their hopes of climbing up the rugby union ladder and becoming genuine World Cup contenders in the future
Climbing the rankings
As of November 9th 2015, Argentina are now ranked as the fifth best team on the planet. To put things into perspective, Wales are the only northern hemisphere side to sit above Argentina in the standings.
Daniel Hourcade’s men are one of the most improved nations in world rugby – and rightly so. They have built an organised, reliable team around some outstanding individuals and it works.
There are many reasons for Argentina’s rise to power but perhaps the most important is their inclusion in The Rugby Championship. Since 2012, Argentina have been competing directly with New Zealand, Australia and South Africa on a yearly basis to determine which nation is the greatest.
While Argentina are yet to win the competition, they are improving rapidly as they continue to face the world’s top sides. Those three opposing nations are currently ranked as the three greatest teams in the sport.
At the World Cup, Argentina defied the odds to beat Ireland and book their place in the semi-finals. The Pumas were well beaten by both Australia and South Africa in the semi-finals and third place playoff respectively but earned plaudits all over the world for their valiant efforts.
Despite falling behind in both contests, they never gave up and were rewarded with a late try in their third place playoff defeat to the Springboks. Argentina gave an excellent account of themselves but viewers were left questioning whether they had the tenacity and hunger to go all the way.
Argentinian rugby is certainly on the rise, there’s no doubt about that. Looking at their Rugby World Cup squad, the Pumas are a relatively young side and they will continue to improve as players mature and gain experience.
In fact, they had just three players on the wrong side of 30 – a statistic that shows the plethora of developing talent in their ranks. By the 2019 World Cup in Japan, many of these stars will be in the prime of their careers and Argentina could go one better and reach the final of the competition.
The True Test
However, it’s all ifs and buts for now. For Argentina to truly show that they are a genuine giant in world rugby, they must begin to earn victories over their southern hemisphere rivals. Since 2012, the Pumas have earned just two wins in The Rugby Championship.
Although it’s progress, Argentina supporters will be expecting more from their side in the future. The 37-25 victory over South Africa in Durban earlier this year suggests that the Pumas are capable of producing a performance on the big stage; they just need to do this on a consistent basis.
If – and it’s a big if – they can continue to improve at their current rate, Argentina can win the 2019 Rugby World Cup. It might sound crazy but the majority of their squad will be in their peak years and, with a bit of luck, the Pumas have the necessary talent to go all the way in Japan.