In a boost for Argentina, former Wallabies coach Michael Cheika is now at last able to join the squad on a permanent basis, after he wasn’t permitted to be directly involved in sessions because of government quarantine regulations.
Argentina shared photos on their social media channels of Cheika – who is working as a coaching consultant for the Pumas – alongside their head coach, Mario Ledesma, during a training session at the Sydney Academy of Sport and Recreation in Narrabeen.
Ledesma said Cheika’s influence would be vital ahead of the six-week tournament.
“The fact that Michael can now be at the training venue and in contact with the players is great,” he told Rugby Australia’s official website.
“He is very enthusiastic about the team, he transmits lots of confidence and belief. He is very eager to join the group and players will be able to take advantage of him full time. He will prepare individual things with the players, so that will be great for the team.”
While the world champion Springboks pulled out of the Rugby Championship last week because they felt they were putting their players at risk by playing given a lack of match practice, the Pumas are coming into the tournament with a quarter of what their southern hemisphere competitors would have had under their belts.
Hitherto, the Pumas have been able to train behind closed doors at Leichhardt Oval in Sydney’s inner-west since touching down in Australia earlier in the month.
But after a month of quarantine – first in Montevideo in Uruguay – the majority of the Pumas squad are at last able to roam freely.
— Los Pumas (@lospumas) October 20, 2020
It makes Saturday’s opposed training session against a Waratahs XV – which won’t be open to the public in Sydney – all the more important.
“Friendly matches are so important for us,” said Ledesma, the former Wallabies scrum coach.
“From the team, the one who played most games did so in seven games in 2020. So, having the opportunity of playing at least three games before the debut against New Zealand, seems not too much but for us it is essential. South Africa was talking about having 400 minutes per player, we will be around 100.”
South Africa’s decision to withdraw at the last minute went down like a lead balloon across the respective SANZAAR unions.
But the one saving grace for Argentina is that it will give them an extra week to prepare, with the Pumas to play their first of four consecutive Tests on November 14.
“South Africa’s withdrawal is not good news because we were prepared to play six games and now there will be four,” added Ledesma.
“But the truth is that the players that come from Europe will not be allowed to leave their quarantine until Wednesday, November 4, and that will have been three days before the match against South Africa, and that was going to be tough in terms of setting up the squad against the Springboks.”