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No place like home for Argentina’s squad

Bertranou is competing for the scrumhalf position with 2015 World Cup duo Martin Landajo and Tomas Cubelli, who has left Australia’s ACT Brumbies to return home.

Pumas coach Daniel Hourcade. Picture: Facebook.

CAPE TOWN – Argentina’s decision not to call up Facundo Isa for the Rugby Championship may yet force a rethink in their selection policy but coach Daniel Hourcade is confident he has enough depth for this year’s campaign.

Loose forward Isa was impressive in last year’s Rugby Championship for the Pumas but has joined French club Toulon and so fallen foul of the Argentine Rugby Union (UAR) policy of selecting only locally-based players in non-World Cup years.

Hourcade is realistic enough to know that if Argentina do not improve this year, the last of his current contract, the policy may well be addressed, however much benefit there is from all the players all singing from the same hymn book tactically.

The 59-year-old, however, believes he has his strongest possible squad for the campaign that starts on Saturday in Port Elizabeth, which he hopes will add another couple of wins to the three from five previous appearances in the tournament.

Almost all the Argentina players will be familiar to their opponents given they also play Super Rugby together as the Jaguares with only Gonzalo Bertranou, Emiliano Boffelli and the uncapped Bautista Ezcurra in line for tournament debuts.

Bertranou is competing for the scrumhalf position with 2015 World Cup duo Martin Landajo and Tomas Cubelli, who has left Australia’s ACT Brumbies to return home.

Hourcade is under no illusions that the task will be just as hard as in previous seasons against the three southern hemisphere rivals who are all in the world’s top five.

“Clearly we are improving but so are the powers and quite a lot,” he told Reuters in an interview.

“We’re going to come up against a confident South Africa after they won their three tests against France (in June).

“They have not lost their essence in physical contact but with dynamics you did not see before, (playing) a game more in accordance with Super Rugby as shown by the Lions, Stormers and Sharks.”

Australia, whose style Hourcade draws on most, are also recovering from a difficult year and might be the team Argentina feel they can take most points from.

Champions New Zealand, however, would be tough after being battle hardened in the British and Irish Lions series and despite always pushing the world champions before having the score blown out, Hourcade believed they would continue to learn.

“To play against the All Blacks is always a tremendous and very nice challenge because without a doubt it helps you grow whatever the result,” he said.