Los Pumas – Scotland: the selected team joins the Santiago party and tries to cut a 15-year streak without celebrating a series at home
SANTIAGO DEL ESTERO.– These are public holidays in this capital. The city is about to turn 469 years old – it will do so on Monday the 25th – and there are street fairs and a large program of celebrations. Including AM chacareras, but not until the candles do not burn, but with full sun: at 11 o’clock this Friday, in the central Plaza Libertad, people were already singing and dancing, even with native costumes. The anniversary is hardly even needed: Santiago del Estero only needs to find an excuse to throw a party.
Traditions, however, coexist with novelties. For example, a few transgressors break the unwritten law of the Santiago siesta. That quasi-provincial constitutional right is ignored by motorists who move through the center at three in the afternoon, who knows where. And also for the Pumas. That they recognized the Madre de Ciudades stadium and took a family photo in it. And that they are protagonists of the most outstanding news of these days here.
For the first time the Argentine rugby team steps on this land, to play this Saturday, at 4:10 p.m., with Scotland in the last match of the succession of three in national territory. Which is 1-1, after the local success (26-18) in Jujuy and the British (29-6) in Salta. There will be one of the team’s objectives: win a series against a powerhouse on home turf for the first time in 15 years.
There are other goals. Win the test match by himself, balance the record against Scotland (11-12), get ready for the Rugby Championship – it will start on August 6 – and examine the players with a view to the France 2023 World Cup, at the dawn of the cycle of Michael Sheika as a coach To achieve the result, another purpose must be fulfilled: get better at the game. In Salta they failed in the fundamentals (scrum, ruck, tactical kicks), and there is no way.
“All goals are important. In any case, this Pumas match is unique, like each one. It is never one more. And I don’t think we take it as preparation for anything. You never know when the last one is. It is also very special because it will be the first time in Santiago del Estero, the first match for many who will come to see it. In this incredible city, rugby is very important, and it endears itself a lot in the North”, he commented. Guido Petti Pagadizabal in the bowels of a stadium, the Madre de Ciudades, which continues to impress by Argentine infrastructure standards.
“The stadium seemed incredible to me. I don’t know if there are so many in Argentina like this one, very modern, very nice. But the most beautiful thing is the people who are going to come to cheer us on. We hope to give him a joy ”, added the second row, one of just three starting rugbiers in the three commitments of the July window. It seems that he, Matías Orlando and Emiliano Boffelli are out of the question in Cheika’s plans.
That he will test as the first center a regular second, Matías Moroni, whom initially he did not even have in the list of the Pumas (yes in Argentina XV). He will continue to evaluate Santiago Carreras as flyhalf and will look closely at scrum-half Lautaro Bazán Vélez, debutant in the 15-player team after a prolific career at Pumas 7s. Two crucial positions in rugby will be in inexperienced hands in them, as a result of the scarce replacement that the national team has there today.
And there will be opportunities for other light blue and white players: the promising prop Thomas Gallo, his colleague Joel Sclavi and the third row Santiago Grondona. At the same time, it will be closely watched what two leading veterans produce, each returning to his way. Agustín Creevy, former captain, will return to the starting lineup due to an injury to Julián Montoya. And the loss of today’s owner of that invisible tape will make anyone who talks to referee Ben O’Keefe Pablo Matera, a predecessor in the wearing of the virtual bracelet. For his colleagues, the discharge from the captaincy in December 2020 due to the exposure of old aggressive tweets was always a leader, beyond the papal ones. They exalt it, and nothing changes their new-old condition for them.
After the false step, or rather noisy fall, a week ago in Salta, Argentina has 11 changes in the starting line-up. Another of them stands out: the talented Facundo Isaof intermittent participation in recent years, is back and will start before his people. Juan Manuel LeguizamonBronze Cougar; Thomas Lezanawhich today is part of Argentina XV, and Isa have been prominent representatives of Santiago del Estero in the selected team in recent years. The province deserved a visit from the Pumas.
And it receives them in the best setting in the north of the country, with its 26,000 tickets already sold (another 3,000 were not sold) and an imposing structure. Any reason is good for the Mother of Cities to party. But the Pumas’ first time here is not an excuse: well worth celebrating big.