Rugby Australia [RA] chairman Hamish McLennan has called for the inclusion of more Argentine players in Super Rugby AU in the wake of Los Pumas’ shock 25-15 victory over the All Blacks in Sydney.
Registering their first-ever win over the New Zealanders at Bankwest Stadium last Saturday, attention has now been turned to the future of the Argentines at club level in the southern hemisphere.
Since 2016, the South American heavyweights were represented by the Jaguares in Super Rugby, with the franchise showing steady improvement year-on-year to reach last year’s final before going down 19-3 to the Crusaders.
The advent of COVID-19 has thrown their involvement in any future competition into disarray, though.
New Zealand, Australia and South Africa have all formed their own makeshift domestic competitions this year, with the former two nations committing to Super Rugby Aotearoa and Super Rugby AU, respectively, in 2021.
There will also be a Super Rugby Trans-Tasman competition next year, which will see teams from opposing countries square off over six weeks.
Plans for an Oceania-based Super Rugby competition featuring all 10 sides from Australia and New Zealand as well as two Pacific Island franchises, thought to be the Fijian Drua and Moana Pasifika, are well underway, with kick-off due in 2022.
South Africa, meanwhile, has improvised this year through Super Rugby Unlocked, which features all four of its Super Rugby franchises and three additional teams – the Cheetahs from the PRO14, and the Currie Cup’s Griquas and Pumas.
However, plans to move the Bulls, Lions, Sharks and Stormers to Europe’s PRO14, which already features two ex-Super Rugby franchises from South Africa in the Cheetahs and Southern Kings, leaves the Jaguares without a competition.
As a result, players at the Buenos Aires club – many of whom make up the majority of the Los Pumas squad – have been urged by the Union Argentina de Rugby [UAR] to pursue contracts elsewhere.
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) November 17, 2020
The Western Force, which will return to Super Rugby permanently in 2021 after being featuring in Super Rugby AU this year, have already pounced on that opportunity.
The Perth-based side last month acquired the services of star hooker Julian Montoya and veteran halfback Tomas Cubelli for their 2021 campaign.
Now, just days after Argentina’s upset win over the All Blacks on Australian soil, a match both Montoya and Cubelli featured in, RA boss McLennan has endorsed the Force’s recruitment ploy and has urged the other Australian franchises to follow suit.
McLennan said he had spoken to former Los Pumas captain Agustin Pichot, who RA supported in his failed bid for the World Rugby chairmanship earlier this year, following Argentina’s Tri Nations victory.
“He’s a good man and he has gone to great lengths to support his players. We should support him.”
McLennan extended that “same courtesy” to SA Rugby chief executive Jourie Roux if there are South African players who do not wish to follow their nation’s Super Rugby franchises to Europe.
“We will take some players from South Africa, if we can,” McLennan said.
Los Pumas are set to continue their Tri Nations campaign this weekend when they take on the Wallabies at McDonald Jones Stadium in Newcastle on Saturday.
Sign up to our mailing list for a weekly digest from the wide world of rugby.Sign Up Now