Former Wallabies midfielder Morgan Turinui has leapt to the defence of the Jaguares in the wake of bizarre comments made by ex-Wallabies hooker Phil Kearns.
Following the Argentine franchise’s 23-15 win over the Waratahs in Sydney on Saturday, Kearns, who played 73 times for New South Wales and was played in 67 tests for Australia, criticised the involvement of the South American club in Super Rugby, despite being on track to host their first-ever quarter-final in the competition.
“They’re the national team,” he said of the South African conference-leading team on Fox Sports‘ post-match coverage.
“They shouldn’t even be in the comp.
“This is a provincial competition. Have a provincial team in it – that’s what it’s about. It’s not about having national teams being in it.
“I think Argentine have been incredibly smart and have hoodwinked the rest of SANZAAR because they’re going to have a magnificent World Cup team, there’s no doubt about it — they’ve played together for the last three years.”
The 51-year-old’s comments came despite the Waratahs possessing more than 210 test caps within their starting lineup than the Jaguares.
Kearns’ sentiments echoed that of fellow former Australian international Mark Ella, who questioned whether the Jaguares would be better off in a regional competition based in the Americas.
“When SANZAR became SANZAAR with the admission of Argentina the travel burden became ridiculous,” Ella wrote in his column for the Weekend Australian.
“The Rugby Championship and Super Rugby now circle the globe and are played on every continent in the southern hemisphere. No other sporting teams in any competition anywhere in the world endure the epic road trips of southern hemisphere rugby nations.
“In Super Rugby, the Jaguares play in the South African conference, their nearest neighbour, yet it is still 8000km from Buenos Aires to Johannesburg. It just adds to the sense that Argentina are not where they belong.”
Speaking on Fox Sports, 20-test Turinui argued against Kearns’ and Ella’s statements by emphasising the qualities that the Jaguares contribute to Super Rugby since their induction to the competition in 2016, when they finished 13th of 18 teams.
“This has just come up now that they’re being a bit more successful. When we were beating them a couple of times, we weren’t too worried about it,” he said.
“Yeah, of course they’re full of international players, but I think they deserve their place in the competition.
“[They] really add to the competition, it’s a fun time zone for me to wake up on Sunday morning sometimes and watch some rugby out of Argentina, so that’s always good, and I think that [having the Jaguares in Super Rugby] helps our teams get better.
“Playing good quality, international players help our teams get better. We learned more about the loss on the weekend from our players than we would against an easy beat Argentinian province if they had to put out three or four teams.
“They wouldn’t be able to cope player depth-wise within their country, they still have a significant number of players playing in Europe, and what we’re seeing is they’ve got cohesion and spending time together as a group.
“They definitely deserve their place in Super Rugby, and Super Rugby’s the richer for them.”
36 players from the Jaguares have been selected in Argentina’s 46-man preliminary World Cup training squad, which will eventually be whittled down to 31 players.
The Jaguares were one of three Super Rugby expansion teams when the competition morphed from a 15-team to an 18-team league in 2016, joining the Sunwolves of Japan and the Southern Kings of South Africa – who previously competed in place of the Lions in 2013 – as the new sides.
After two extremely unsuccessful seasons of the enlarged tournament, the Kings were axed alongside the Cheetahs and Western Force in 2017.
The two South African franchises joined the Pro14 in Europe, while the Force were taken over by billionaire Andrew Forrest, who created the Global Rapid Rugby competition for the Perth-based club to compete in.
The Sunwolves are set to endure a similar fate at the end of next season, when the competition is culled back to 14 teams, allowing for a return to a round-robin format that was last seen in Super Rugby from between 2006 and 2010.
Consequently, the Jaguares will be the only expansion side from 2016 still in the competition from 2021 onwards, which is the result of their strength of squad, promising potential, and improving run of results.
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