Pumas' Juan Martin Hernandez to miss Springboks game
Injured Argentinian flyhalf to miss game against the Springboks, the only major nation they have lost every match against
Argentina's chance of a first victory in the Rugby Championship at home to South Africa in Mendoza today has taken a dramatic turn for the worse with the loss of flyhalf Juan Martin Hernandez through injury.
The Pumas dream of ending a record of 14 defeats in as many meetings with the Springboks, the last a 27-6 loss in their debut in the southern hemisphere tournament last weekend.
They have usually proved a handful on home soil but losing one of their leading players, a key element of the Pumas side that finished third at the 2007 World Cup in France, diminishes their chances of an upset.
Coach Santiago Phelan has replaced Hernandez, who pulled a right leg muscle during practice on Tuesday, with reserve fly half Nicolas Sanchez for the match at the Malvinas Argentinas stadium in Mendoza.
Sanchez, whose three previous caps came against minor opposition, has inside knowledge, having been a part of the Pampas XV who won South Africa's third-tier Vodacom Cup last year.
The decision means two changes to the side beaten in Cape Town with Martin Rodriguez replacing Lucas Gonzalez Amorosino at fullback.
Lock Patricio Albacete underlined the need for Argentina to change tactics in the rucks.
"We must try to get more of their players involved in the rucks, which didn't happen [last weekend]," Albacete said. "We'd have three or four players involved and they wouldn't have any, which left them with a lot of free players."
Phelan said Argentina's game plan was sound and the team would improve with each match in their first annual top-level tournament.
"The maul was a good tool which helped us to advance on several occasions. The three penalties we missed in the second half came from mauls."
South Africa have also made two changes with hooker Bismarck du Plessis unavailable after a ligament injury during last Saturday's match. Adriaan Strauss takes his place.
Jacques Potgieter replaces the dropped Keegan Daniel at blindside flanker and Willem Alberts moves to number eight.
Los Pumas have lost all seven home tests against the Springboks since they first met 19 years ago, and all were played in the capital Buenos Aires.
But for this game Argentina have opted for western city Mendoza at the foothills of the snow-capped Andes mountains.
The team have beaten Italy and Chile at the 45,000-seat multi-sport stadium in this hub of the biggest Latin American wine-producing region.
But every Argentine player, coach, official and supporter craves a victory over South Africa, the only major rugby nation they have lost every match against. Even the mighty All Blacks were held 21-21 in a 1985 test.
Including the loss in Cape Town last Saturday, the Pumas have suffered 14 consecutive defeats against South Africa with 40-21 the average score when the men in blue and white host the men in green and gold.
"My players are thrilled to be part of the first Rugby Championship match to be played in Argentina. It is a big deal for us," Phelan said. "We are disappointed by the way things went in the first test, but we did not play that poorly and were competitive. We hung in there, but the team need to play better this weekend.
"There was good quality ball for us from the scrums and line-outs and we tried to play it. Despite conceding three tries, our defensive screen was very good at times."
Reuters, Agence France-Presse