Scotland are frustrating. There is absolutely no reason why they cannot beat the big teams. Their players are good, their coaching setup is good, they are able to get themselves into good positions, but they just seem to lack the winning mentality to finally see them over the line. In many ways they are much like their opponents on Saturday. Argentina are also a team that have developed a lot in the past few years. Their impressive World Cup campaign saw them through to their second semi-final appearance, and with the inclusion of the Jaguares in last year’s Super Rugby competition, Argentina were expected to continue their upward trajectory. Unfortunately, things have not quite gone to plan. They enjoyed a mixed Rugby Championship, beating South Africa and putting in a good performance against the All Blacks in Buenos Ares, but exit the competition with a distinct impression that they could have done better. They drew their summer series against France 1-1, scraped past Italy and were narrowly beaten by Wales at the weekend. Argentina sit precariously in 8th place in the world rankings, and a loss this weekend may see Scotland leapfrog them. With the draw for the World Cup taking place next year, Argentina will want to avoid a potential ‘group of death’ and the other tier 1 nations will want to avoid any group with the Pumas as the third seeds.
The two teams have played 15 times, with Argentina winning 9 and Scotland winning the remaining 6, although 4 of those Scotland victories have come in the last 5 matches.
Scotland have called up their latest kilted South Afrcan prospect Cornell du Preez after becoming eligible through residency last month. He may replace number 8 Ryan Wilson who left the field with an ankle laceration at the weekend. John Hardie may also be out after suffering concussion, and being removed from the field against Australia. Finally, Richie Gray is also a doubt after picking up a head knock of his own.
Tactically, the Scottish team needs to watch their discipline. Against Australia, they severely limited their ability to relieve pressure by continuously giving away penalties, which were gleefully converted by Bernard Foley. Conceding a try when your team is both in the lead and a man up as they did against the Wallabies, is unacceptable for a team that should genuinely be doing better. The lineout was another area of concern that Scotland needs to sort out. They will be hoping that centre Huw Jones puts in another magnificent display after being Scotland’s best player at the weekend, scoring two tries. Their scrum proved one of Scotland’s strengths, with young props Zander Fagerson and Allan Dell being singled out for praise by captain Greig Laidlaw.
Argentina need to get themselves going from the first minute on Saturday, they were complacent against Wales and only really came out of their shell once Wales scored their first try. They need to complete tackles more efficiently, with 1 in 4 tackles being missed against Wales. They need to get their backs running at the Scottish defense. Wales were able to nullify the Argentinian team through the use of choke tackles, which slowed play down considerably. If Argentina can keep the ball moving quickly, and they will need to rely on scrum-half Martìn Landajo to provide quick ball, their wing’s Moroni and Moyano can cause Scotland difficulties.
With a coveted place in the world’s top 8 at stake, and with both teams looking to get back to winning ways after equally agonising results last weekend, this match has all of the ingredients to be both an intriguing and exciting test for both sides. Scotland need to have the inner belief that they are capable of beating top teams, but Argentina have the skills to compete with anyone on their day.