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Last Updated: Wednesday, 24 September, 2003, 13:28 GMT 14:28 UK
Form guide: Argentina
Argentina battle it out with South Africa
The Pumas came within a whisker of a hat-trick of wins
Argentina came within a whisker of a hat-trick of famous wins in their busy World Cup build-up.

After back-to-back victories over France, only the boot of South Africa's Louis Koen denied them a third victory.

Those three matches were the start of a successful season during which the defeat to the Springboks was the only reverse the Pumas suffered.

Argentina's defence was rock solid in the opening game of the two-Test series against the French.

The only points conceded in the 10-6 win came from the boot of Yann Delaigue and Damien Traille.

And, despite the absence of influential scrum-half Agustin Pichot, the Pumas immediately put France under pressure, wing Jose Maria Nunez Piossek scoring after just two minutes.

In France's defence, they fielded an effectively second-string pack and struggled throughout the game with a series of handling errors.

FORM IN 2003

A week on, two new-look line-ups enjoyed an even more thrilling contest as France were edged out 33-32 with a Gonzalo Quesada drop-goal in the dying seconds.

Quesada was the star of the night, ending the game with 20 points as the Pumas held on to claim a dramatic win despite a French fightback.

In a third nail-biter in as many weeks, Argentina failed to pull off a repeat win and were instead on the receiving end in Port Elizabeth as South Africa won by a single point.

Argentina led the try count by three to two and touchdowns from Felipe Contepomi and Piossek gave the visitors a 15-13 lead.

A Juan Martin Hernandez try moved the Pumas 25-16 clear but Koen, who ended the night with a 100% kicking record and a tally of 16 points, had the final say.

Try: Ensayo
Penalty: Penalti
Tackle: Placaje
Come on ref: Venga arbitro
Cauliflower ears: Orejas de coliflor

The standard of Argentina's opponents may have lessened since June, but the standard of their rugby has remained just as high.

Although they struggled against the flair of Fiji's backs, and Rupeni Caucaunibuca in particular, their forwards saw them comfortably home, with Gloucester prop Rodrigo Roncero scoring two tries in a 49-30 win.

And the Pumas continued to rack up the points in the Pan-American Championships with overwhelming victories against the USA, Uruguay and Canada.

After a close-fought first half, Argentina's forward power again proved the difference in their opening match against the Eagles.

Having led 18-3 at the break, they finished 42-8 winners with six tries on the scoresheet.

They were even more unforgiving four days later as they rattled up nine tries against Uruguay in a 57-0 win.

And they completed their show of domination with another nine-try rout against Canada in a 62-22 victory.

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