“Our dream is to be world champions,” says Pumas’ captain and hooker Agustin Creevy.
Given that they rarely beat either the top southern hemisphere teams or England, most observers could be excused a certain scepticism. A more realistic objective would be to emulate their fine 2007 generation by reaching the semi-finals for the second time.
Argentina succeeded in 2007 with victories over leading European sides Ireland and Scotland but came unstuck against South Africa.
Now with a first win over the Springboks under their belt after the August upset in Durban, the only team they have yet to beat are New Zealand.
“(The South Africa win) was really nice but victories don’t last long, it’s in the past and you have to look forward,” said flyhalf Juan Martin Hernandez. “Our perspective doesn’t change after the victory though it’s true that this kind of win helps spiritually because it reflects our good work (in training).”
Upsetting the world champion All Blacks at Wembley in their opening Pool C match on Sept. 20 would be the perfect start but they are far more likely to lose that match and win the others against Georgia, Tonga and Namibia to reach their customary quarter-final spot.
The quarter-finals should be a given since they joined the Rugby Championship in 2012 with two guaranteed annual tests against each of the three top southern hemisphere teams.
But the players know they must keep their feet on the ground, aware that the likes of Georgia are also progressing apace and a shock result in their second match would leave them needing other results to go their way.
A week after Argentina handed South Africa the Rugby Championship wooden spoon, the Springboks took their revenge with victory in a World Cup warmup in Buenos Aires over the team coach Daniel Hourcade said he would field against New Zealand.
Although Argentina are playing an expansive attacking game under Hourcade, defence is the key according to scrumhalf Tomas Cubelli.
“When we are strong and don’t give away tries, the team feels confident, solid and from there we go into attack,” Cubelli said.
“On top of that, when this happens, our opponents start to wear down mentally.”
Argentina’s expanding player base means there is ample cover for the likes of winger Gonzalo Camacho and prop Juan Figallo, veterans of the 2011 World Cup who failed to make the squad due to injury.
(Editing by John Mehaffey)