DURBAN, South Africa (Reuters) - Argentina coach Michael Cheika says this year’s Rugby Championship proves his side can compete with the best teams in the world but was also a missed opportunity to make a major statement ahead of next year’s Rugby World Cup.
Argentina finished the competition with a 38-21 loss in South Africa on Saturday, but victories in New Zealand and at home to Australia make this one of their most impressive campaigns to date.
"There were two (other) games that we could have won, against Australia (also at home) and last week (at home against South Africa). I’m not happy with the results, but as a team we are improving,” Cheika told ESPNScrum.
“It's difficult to say this because I don't want to give the impression that we are only going to compete and nothing else. We need to win, we played well and we were able to do it.
"In general we have increased the level of our game, but it’s time to believe that we can win more often against the best teams in the world. It’s very important to take these learnings into November (the autumn internationals).”
Cheika bemoaned his side’s decision-making in their loss in Durban, a game in which they conceded 22 penalties, two penalty tries and received four yellow cards.
"I think the score is not a reflection of the match,” he said. “The lesson we take from this game is that it is very important to make good decisions at important moments."
Australian Cheika was also confused by some of the calls from referee Damon Murphy and for the second week in a row was not best pleased with the match officials.
"For us it is not very clear, because in the first three games of the Rugby Championship we were among the least penalised teams.
“At one point the referee tells Julian (Montoya) he has empathy for him. We don't need empathy, we need respect. It is very difficult to win games when decisions are made like this."
(Reporting by Nick Said; Editing by William Mallard)