Buenos Aires Times

Pumas consult psychologists to improve mental toughness

Argentina’s habit of fading in the last 20 minutes raises questions about their fitness. But assistant coach Pablo Bouza believes the problems are in their heads and not in the legs.

Saturday 18 November, 2017
Foto:Cedoc.

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The Pumas, Argentina’s national rugby team, revealed this week that they have met with psychologists to repair their mental toughness. Speaking prior to the team’s 21-8 defeat to England at Twickenham last weekend, coach Daniel Hourcade revealed that the team had resorted to psychological help after suffering a string of defeats.

Argentina has this year won only one match - at home to Georgia - and lost all six in the Rugby Championship. The Pumas failed to win a competition point for the first time since 2012 when they joined the championship. They were also beaten twice by an under-strength England in June on home soil, and last Saturday they lost again in a tough match England coach Eddie Jones labelled a “grindathon.” Yet, Argentina has led in several recent matches, including at halftime in New Zealand and in the first test against England in Argentina.

“It’s probably mental and that’s what we have to work on, so we don’t have those ups and downs during the games,” coach Daniel Hourcade said. “Some of the players have consulted (people) in terms of mentality, some individually with psychologists, and some as a groupwith coaches.”

Argentina’s habit of fading in the last 20 minutes raises questions about their fitness. But assistant coach Pablo Bouza believes the problems are in their heads and not in the legs.

“Where we have to improve is to play 80 minutes at the same level,” Bouza said. “In the championship we played six matches and in three we won the first half against very good teams.It’s not about fitness, it’s about making errors so many times in areas we should not make them. That’s what we are talking about, the mental toughness to do it. “It’s decision-making. Sometimes the mistake is because of a person on the other team, but sometimes, no, it’s our mistake. We know what to do, it’s about what we do under pressure. The clash against England wasn’t exactly a feast for spectators. “There were very few opportunities for both sides,” Hourcade said after the match.

“England took advantage when they had opportunities and we were not able to.” Some felt there was more entertainment on the touchline. Jones in fact had to say sorry for a foul-mouthed outburst during England’s victory after being told off by his 93-year-old mother. The England coach vented his anger during the second half, with television cameras showing him slamming down a notebook and mouthing foul language. He said a reprimand from his mother had left its mark. “I got a phone call this morning from my mother, who is 93, rapping me over the knuckles,” he told the BBC.


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