Pumas’ legend Juan Martín Hernández is backing Los Jaguares to look at potentially joining the Súper Liga Americana de Rugby (SLAR) amid an uncertain future for Super Rugby.
Los Jaguares have been decimated in 2020. Earlier this year the club effectively informed their players that they are free to pursue contracts elsewhere following the break-up of Super Rugby and with talks in Australia, New Zealand and South Africa ongoing, the future of the multi-nation tournament appears to be up the air.
SLAR, South America’s new professional league, could be a ready-made alternative for a homeless Jaguares franchise.
SLAR consists of six teams, with five of those sides – from Argentina, Uruguay, Chile, Paraguay and Brazil – competing in a regular-season that, upon its conclusion, the top four sides will go into the playoffs. The fifth-placed side will enter the Challenge Trophy with Cafeteros Pro, a club from Medellín in Colombia who are not a full participant for the debut season.
SLAR would offer a more local tournament and although the standard is nowhere near that of Super Rugby, it is a league ripe for development.
In need of high-grade competition, Hernández believes that SLAR could be a good long term solution to the Jaguares and to Los Pumas’ conundrum. In an interview with La Pleno de Rugby, the mercurial playmaker said current players could “be here or they could train to play for Ceibos, Corinthians or in Uruguay, Selknam or wherever. If we can train those players at a regional level and the level grows, at some point it will be interesting, it will be very competitive and it will be very good. But it is very long term.”
“Some have already decided to go abroad and for those that are, the most difficult point is how to maintain the level of these players. If they are going to play in the Rugby Championship, then what competition will they have to prepare with?”
“I think that the Liga Sudamericana is going to be very important. Not in the short-term, it won’t provide the level or quality to b able to play in the Rugby Championship in the short-term. Nonetheless, I think that it is very useful for the medium and long-term; in two, three, four, or five years time it is going to be spectacular.”
He argues that having more than one team in SLAR could potentially give Los Pumas increased depth in each position compared to the current set up, where the Jaguares more or less supply every position in the team from a single feeder club, occasionally dipping into European players stocks as needed.
“In the Rugby Championship you compete against New Zealand, South Africa, Australia, who when choosing a prop have four others who are starting players in their Super Rugby franchises. One of them plays, but the others are at the highest level. There are ten loose heads to select from. So, in an ideal world there would be more Argentine franchises to provide for Los Pumas, more Argentine franchises in one place that could compete in Super Rugby to have more options.”
Sign up to our mailing list for a weekly digest from the wide world of rugby.Sign Up Now