Confidence building: Pumas captain Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe challenges Sam Whitelock of the All Blacks in La Plata late last month. Photo: Reuters
Pumas captain Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe says he is 10 years too late to play in the "best" provincial competition in the world but he thinks younger Argentinians deserve the chance.
The veteran back rower, who plays in France for Top 14 side Toulon, has backed plans to include an Argentinian side in Super Rugby from 2016.
He says the southern hemisphere competition would be a shot in the arm for the development of Argentinian players because it offered the best standard of rugby.
"I just wish I was 10 years younger so I could play 10 years of Super Rugby," Lobbe said.
"It's where the best rugby has been played since we started playing rugby. They are the world champions, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and if you want to be the best you need to play against the best, train with the best and learn from the best.
"There is no one better than Australia, South Africa and New Zealand."
There are already indications that Argentina, the newest entrants into the four-nation Rugby Championship tournament, are increasingly looking at the southern hemisphere as an alternative to club rugby in Europe.
Young Pumas tighthead Matias Diaz, who will play off the bench against the Wallabies in Rosario on Sunday, has signed a one-year deal with New Zealand franchise the Highlanders.
Rookie second rower Tomas Lavanini, already a physical force to be reckoned with at two metres and 120 kilograms, played in the Chiefs academy this season and is in line to join the main squad next year.
Lobbe, who has played with Matt Giteau at Toulon, said he would encourage young players to look for opportunities in Super Rugby ahead of the British or European club scenes.
"I have had the chance to play amongst a few southern hemisphere players and I just love the way they enjoy rugby and the way everything seems easy for them," he said.
Argentina joined the Rugby Championship last year and is lobbying to extend the integration with a place in Super Rugby when the new broadcast deal ticks over ahead of the 2016 season.
Lobbe, like many of his compatriots, has played for Argentina for almost a decade but his Test record – 55 caps – reflects the Pumas' limited exposure to top flight competitions.
Now in their second year in the Rugby Championship, the Pumas are still chasing their first win, but have gained enormous benefits from the experience.
"There are a lot of things but for me the most important thing has been confidence and experience," Lobbe said.
"Being able to play five times against the All Blacks in the last two years, if we count the last World Cup, is a massive thing. It gives you confidence; it gives you a lot of knowledge of how to play at that level and intensity. It's a really good thing."
Sunday's Test against Australia is the Pumas' final chance this year to nab their first win ever in the tournament.
The side lost 14-13 in Perth three weeks ago and more than held their own against the All Blacks in La Plata last week, leading 11-9 at half-time before three second-half tries took New Zealand home 33-15.
Lobbe said the Pumas' excellent scrummaging in La Plata gave them confidence against the Wallabies.
"We need to have a dominant scrum like we had last week and we need to have a good lineout through the 80 minutes, not 50 [minutes], like we did last week," he said.
"And two things are going to be key: first of all to hold the ball and don't let them have it, and when we don't have it, put a lot of pressure on the Australian team – a lot of pressure."
The Wallabies have been able to create opportunities, topping the stats in line breaks during the tournament, but have been woeful finishers. Handling errors and an apparent lack of confidence have hobbled them on the score board.
Lobbe, the Pumas' talismanic leader, missed the early rounds of the competition with a calf injury and could only watch while his side were walloped 73-13 against South Africa in Soweto in round one.
They rallied to narrow the gap to a 22-17 loss against the Springboks the next week and continued to improve, getting to within a point of the Wallabies in Perth.
"We are never happy to come close; we don't like "close defeat", that phrase," Lobbe said. "We don't accept it in our group – everyone wants to win. We know it's very difficult; we know at the end of the day, we are the No.10 [placed side in the world] and they are the No.1 or No.2 or No.3 in this tournament, but as a competitor, you always want to win. "We give everything to get better and hopefully doing that will give you the win."