Argentina coach Mario Ledesma detailed the “sleepless nights” and endless adversity the Pumas had to overcome to complete an extraordinary Tri Nations campaign with another spirited draw with the Wallabies.
Two stints in quarantine, in Uruguay then Sydney, an economy crisis in Argentina and the mid-week dumping of inspirational skipper Pablo Matera and two teammates couldn’t break the Pumas.
In the end, they were unlucky not to beat the Wallabies instead of finishing the tour with a 16-16 stalemate in Sydney – having drawn 15-15 with the Australians a fortnight earlier in Newcastle and conquering the All Blacks for the first time in history last month.
“As much as I thought the other one, if we’d won it, it would have been unfair, I think we deserved this one,” Ledesma said after his side relinquished a 10-point first-half lead on Saturdat night.
“We’re really happy about the whole tour and I’m really proud with the guys.
“Couldn’t be prouder.
“Adversity was present from March on … but from the beginning, we said we didn’t want to make any excuses for starters and we didn’t.
“I never heard anybody whinge, anybody complain. It was all positive attitude and getting together and feeling off the others’ energy.
“They love each other. They demand the same commitment they put on each other.
“So it’s been an incredible journey the whole year.”
Ledesma did, however, concede the events of last week, when Matera, lock Guido Petti and hooker Santiago Socino were stood down after racist tweets from between 2011 and 2013 emerged, had taken a huge toll on the group.
The trio had their punishments rescinded by the Argentina Rugby Union on Thursday amid reports of a player revolt if they didn’t.
But they still didn’t play at Bankwest Stadium, adding to the Pumas’ incredible feat of keeping the Wallabies at bay to finish second in the Tri Nations behind the champion All Blacks.
“This week has been really, really hard. All the other stuff, the preparation, all the build-up, happy days” Ledesma said.
“Especially on some of the boys, it was a really difficult week to prepare.
“They were sleeping like two or three hours a night and I kept receiving messages from players at two o’clock in the morning, three o’clock in the morning, and they were texting each other and calling each other about everything that was going on.
“So, sleepless nights and rescheduling training.
“But these guys don’t stop surprising. They never put their head down.”
Ledesma reserved special praise for Michael Cheika, after the former Wallabies coach switched camps to work as an assistant for the Pumas.
“He’s a great guy; great energy and I wanted to work again with Cheik, so it was selfish for me,” he said.
“We started talking in February, March and I started suggesting we could work together again and I did everything to get him on board.”