Argentina coach Mario Ledesma shed tears of joy as the Pumas waited 35 years for their first win over New Zealand, moved by the obstacles his players had to overcome and their performance.
- The Pumas defeated the All Blacks 25-15 in Sydney
- Coach Mario Ledesma said his team had “gone through hell”
- Former Wallabies coach Michael Cheika was praised for his confidence in the team
A coaching year that started with video calling and continued in camps in Argentina and Uruguay before two weeks of quarantine in Australia yielded the first result on the field with an impressive 25:15 triumph over the All Blacks.
“Unreal, unreal – surreal. After everything that happened this year,” said a tearful Ledesma on the pitch at Western Sydney Stadium.
“Just staying positive with everything that’s going on, which is a lot in itself. And then getting out of here and playing the game you played is just amazing.
“Just so proud of her.”
Still with tears in his eyes as he chaired the post-game press conference, the former cougar hooker said the win was his greatest as a coach and once again paid tribute to his players.
“There’s no magic formula, it’s always the players,” he said.
“They have been great throughout the pandemic situation. They went from quarantine to quarantine. Some of the players haven’t seen their families in four months and they haven’t complained once, they have always been positive.”
Argentine captain Pablo Matera, who leads by example with a brutal performance at the blindside flanker, said he expected the Pumas to beat New Zealand for the first time in 30 attempts.
“Yes, 100 percent,” he said. “We have a great team, a lot of great young players who come into the team, put a lot of energy and really know what the kit represents for Argentina.”
Cheika instills trust and faith in cougars
Matera said former Australian coach Michael Cheika, whom Ledesma hired as an advisor to the Tri-Nations, helped instill that confidence in the team.
“He just came to us on the first day and said, ‘What are you waiting for? You have it all. You have great players, young players, you have a lot of energy. Just go and take it,'” “Matera recalled.
Matera would have been a strong contender for the man of the game if Nicolas Sanchez’s half hadn’t scored all of the Argentine points in one try, one conversion and six penalties, including one in half that sealed the win.
“You just don’t come here and act like that,” said Ledesma.
“There’s no magic formula, he’s prepared to be successful and he was right on the schedule.”