Argentina: Michael Cheika rues poor decision-making against South Africa but reflects on a promising tournament

Dylan Coetzee

Michael Cheika has transformed Argentina since taking over the head coaching role earlier in the year, making Los Pumas a force to be reckoned with.

Argentina kicked on in the Rugby Championship from their July series win against Scotland and, in the process, claimed a record win against Australia and their first win against the All Blacks on New Zealand soil.

The team showed immense improvement throughout and will only continue to develop. The fact that most of their players are based overseas and playing in high-quality club competition proved its worth, with Los Pumas boasting growing depth in their squad.

Promising tournament

Despite the impressive campaign, the side could have claimed more wins, particularly in Round One against Australia, where poor discipline in the second half threw the game away and similarly against South Africa in Buenos Aires.

“There were two (other) games that we could have won, against Australia (also at home) and last week (at home against South Africa). I’m not happy with the results, but as a team we are improving,” Cheika told ESPN.

“It’s difficult to say this because I don’t want to give the impression that we are only going to compete and nothing else. We need to win, we played well and we were able to do it.

“In general we have increased the level of our game, but it’s time to believe that we can win more often against the best teams in the world. It’s very important to take these learnings into November (the autumn internationals).”

Better decision-making

Cheika does not believe the 38-21 loss against the Springboks in Durban this weekend accurately reflects his team’s efforts but wants his players to make better decisions in key moments.

“I think the score is not a reflection of the match,” he said. “The lesson we take from this game is that it is very important to make good decisions at important moments.”

The Australian-born coach did not like how referee Damon Murphy officiated the game and noted inconsistencies with decisions from earlier in the competition.

“For us it is not very clear, because in the first three games of the Rugby Championship we were among the least penalised teams,” he said.

“At one point the referee tells Julian (Montoya) he has empathy for him. We don’t need empathy, we need respect. It is very difficult to win games when decisions are made like this.”

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