On the eve of their participation in the Rugby Championship, the Pumas have taken a giant leap toward becoming a rugby power by securing the services of former All Blacks World Cup winning coach Graham Henry.
Henry has been appointed as a Technical Consultant in a move that one hopes will pay dividends for rugby in Argentina, both on and off the field.
After making the quarter-finals of the 2011 Rugby World Cup, the Pumas enter the most important stage in their history as a top tier rugby nation as they participate in the annual Rugby Championship beginning in August. The Pumas have always promised so much, yet failed to deliver on the big stage. Yes, they continually get through to the knockout stages of the World Cup, but that is where it ends.
Playing against superpowers the Wallabies, All Blacks and Springboks on a regular basis will undoubtedly help Argentina improve their level of play on the field. Another bonus for the Pumas is that the majority of their side plies their trade in Europe, which undoubtedly raises the level in the national team. Add the inclusion of the very successful Pampas in the Vodacom Cup, and things are looking pretty good for the South Americans.
In Henry, the Pumas now possess a mind that may increase Argentina’s chances of perhaps winning a couple of matches in the Rugby Championship.
However, Henry’s contract only lasts one year so the Pumas will do well to get the most out of the World Cup winning coach.
The great thing about Henry’s appointment revolves around the fact that the Pumas finally possess a member of the coaching staff who has managed a World Cup winning side and has a phenomenal success rate.
Fresh from winning a World Cup with the All Blacks, Henry’s inside knowledge on New Zealand’s style of play will undoubtedly benefit Pumas head coach Santiago Phelan.
Although Argentina did well to keep the All Blacks try less for over 60 minutes in last year’s World Cup quarter-final, the Pumas remained firmly under the pump for the majority of the contest and will need to learn to maintain an even amount of possession if they are a chance of defeating the men in black.
As a technical consultant, Henry’s main role will be to improve Argentina’s coaching and planning whilst also setting up a nationwide program that will help the Pumas become a more competitive outfit on the world stage.
In regards to coaching, one of the main areas the Pumas need improvement in is in their line-out play.
Against the All Blacks last year, Argentina lost possession on their own line-out on numerous occasions, thus crippling their ability to build pressure against the Kiwis.
If Henry can encourage Argentina’s coaches to improve key technical aspects such as line-out play, it will further strengthen the Pumas chances of perhaps leaving a solid impression in their first ever outing in the Rugby Championship.