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Rugby | Castle Rugby Championship

Pumas seek balance in search of winning finale



If Argentina are to beat Australia and finish with a victory in their first Rugby Championship on Saturday they must emulate the 2007 Pumas.

Argentina suffered a crushing loss to South Africa in their World Cup semifinal in Paris but picked themselves up to earn third place with a resounding win against hosts France.

The Pumas are looking for a balanced performance against the Wallabies in Rosario having conceded seven tries in a mauling by New Zealand last weekend.

"It's hard to digest. We've got to be brutally honest in our match analysis and understand we weren't as solid as we have been in defence (in the previous matches)," Argentina's captain Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe said.

Argentina, buoyed by good performances in their narrow away losses to New Zealand and Australia, believed they could benefit from a more expansive game against the All Blacks.

"We tried to play, yes, but our defence sustains us and keeps us in the game. Unfortunately, they succeeded in taking advantage of all our mistakes," Fernandez Lobbe told reporters.

The Pumas scored the first try but they had the misfortune to catch the world champions in brilliant mood and their defence was often stretched beyond its limits by rampant All Blacks' running.

"It was very physical, the tournament is beginning to weigh (on us). They came to give us a match with a lot of intensity, we're still short (of that)," Fernandez Lobbe said in an unsparing analysis of the debutant team in the expanded southern hemisphere tournament.

"When we spent more time defending than attacking we could withstand the intensity. This time we sought to attack but couldn't maintain the intensity," he said after New Zealand's victory clinched the inaugural four-nation tournament.

"We're coming to the end of two and a half months of a lot of effort. We want to finish (the tournament) with a good match in the best possible way, we're playing the world's third best team at home so it's a great opportunity to take a step forward,"

An extra incentive for the Pumas will be to provide a winning send-off for prop Rodrigo Roncero, a veteran of the 2007 team who announced on Thursday it would be his last match.

MISSING PLUM

"Looking back, my career has been extremely positive. I'm just missing the plum of beating one of the three powers (New Zealand, South Africa and Australia)," the 35-year-old with six test tries told reporters.

"I played at three World Cups and I managed to play the first Rugby Championship. I retire content, the Pumas jersey gave me some of the best moments in my life."

Australia, ravaged by injuries and licking the wounds of their 31-8 defeat by South Africa in Pretoria last weekend that secured second place for the Springboks, mean to spoil the party at soccer team Rosario Central's ground, El Gigante de Arroyito.

Their coach Robbie Deans has named one of Australia's most inexperienced teams of the professional era, putting the emphasis on bulk to counter the expected physical approach of the Pumas who ran the Wallabies close on the Gold Coast, going down 23-19.

"They will look to take us on physically as a pack," he said. "They will want to maul us and our selections are reflective of what we expect from them," Deans said.

Captain Nathan Sharpe warned his side what to expect, in the words of prop James Slipper: "Sharpey said 'get your head around what you're walking into - you have to be men, not boys. It's going to be a hostile environment'."

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