NO sooner had the final whistle sounded at the Estadio de Agosto in JuJuy on Saturday night than the familiar pleas of mitigation were filling the air. The Scots made too many mistakes, they need to be more consistent, with a good week of training the tourists will bounce back in round two of this three instalment series at the Estadio Padre Ernesto Martearna in Salta next Saturday night. 

We’ve heard this stuff so many times before that it now sounds like meaningless obfuscation. All teams make mistakes and have off days, but progressive sides learn over time how to make less errors and how to manage games when things don’t quite click. This Scotland team appears caught in a repeat loop and can’t figure out how to break the cycle, so they just keep trotting out the same bland platitudes, hoping that occasional one-off successes will paper over the cracks.. 

In fairness, coaches and players are in an invidious position when interviewed immediately after a painful defeat. They’ve had no time to digest or analyse the performance, and they are under pressure to keep it positive when all they really want to do is sit quietly in a dark corner for a few hours.  

In the current Scotland set-up, where projecting a wholesome image of a happy squad is a clear priority, you wonder whether a player saying what he really thinks in public would be a bigger cause for anxiety within the camp than giving away a mindless penalty which costs momentum at a crucial stage in the match. Certainly, in the last five or six years, we have seen a major reduction in the former while the latter is still a long-running sore. 

Squad members constantly volunteer – without prompting – that it is a brilliant environment to be in, and that they are all really enjoying each other’s company during press briefings. It all seems rather forced and irrelevant, because in international sport the only thing anyone really cares about is performances and results.  

It is fine for players to be good pals, but it is not vital, so long as there is a commonality of purpose, a ruthless commitment to drive standards and an intolerance of failure throughout the group.  

So, you’d like to think that there will be a bit of niggle in the debrief and during training this week as the Scots search for the intensity which was so conspicuously absent last Saturday. Surely voices will be raised when the team discuss how Emiliano Boffelli managed to outleap several forward to win back Argentina’s restart after Rory Hutchinson’s match-squaring try midway through the second half, because to hand the initiative right back to the opposition so easily after hunting down a 12-point half-time deficit is criminal. Shrugging shoulders and promising that lessons will be learned won’t cut it.  

From a selection perspective, changes must be made because there needs to be accountability for what has gone wrong. 

Starting at the front, Zander Fagerson reinforced his reputation as a penalty machine, holding onto the ball on the deck to give Argentina their first three points early in the match, and coughing up a scrum penalty at the start of the second half. With the World Cup now 14 months away, and WP Nel set to celebrate his 37th birthday before that tournament comes around, it surely makes sense to give Javan Sebastian some time in the saddle sooner rather than later to find out if he can play tighthead prop at the highest level. 

Dave Cherry is a fine technical hooker and a ferocious competitor in the loose so deserves a shot at hooker, either as a starter or back-up to coming man Ewan Ashman. 

If fit following his chest/shoulder injury, then Hamish Watson will return at openside flanker to provide some much needed on-field leadership and combativeness. 

Saturday was Blair Kinghorn’s third international start at stand-off so it is too early to be shelving that experiment, especially as we saw flashes of what he is capable as an attacking force in the lead-up to both Scotland tries. But he needs to be under pressure to reduce his error count – restarts must go 10 metres, penalties must find touch, offloads in midfield must go to hand – meaning Townsend must be prepared to bring Ross Thompson off the bench if his starting No 10 isn’t in complete control going into the final quarter. 

Winger Darcy Graham made a bad error when catching an Argentinean restart with a foot in touch, which handed the initiative right back to the hosts after Kisghorn's penalty had squared the scores during the first half, but he also worked hard to get himself into the game. Meanwhile, Duhan van der Merwe on the other wing was practically anonymous with ball in hand, so perhaps it is time to give a go-getter like Kyle Rowe and Rufus McLean a run.  

Regardless of who is selected, the big challenge facing this Scotland team on Saturday is to prove that they collectively have more than just hollow words of reassurance to offer.