Argentina pushing hard for Super Rugby place
August 15, 2013
Could Argentina soon be celebrating an invite to join Super Rugby to accompany their presence in the Rugby Championship? © PA Photos
On the eve of what will be only their second year competing in The Rugby Championship, it appears that Argentina could soon be celebrating a place at the Super Rugby table.
The Pumas were invited to join the battle for international honours in the southern hemisphere back in 2009 and eventually made their debut in an expanded Tri-Nations competition alongside Australia, New Zealand and South Africa last year.
Santiago Phelan's side more than held their own against their illustrious rivals - with a notable draw against South Africa - and it appears they will soon be competing on the domestic stage as part of a re-vamped Super Rugby competition.
SANZAR, the governing body for Super Rugby and The Rugby Championship, is considering a number of different models for the future of the competition beyond 2015 when the current broadcast deal expires. Reports suggest the most likely option will see the current three conference format reduced to two - one featuring sides from Australia and New Zealand and the other including those from South Africa and as perhaps as many as two from Argentina.
"Argentina have made no secret of their aspiration to be part of Super Rugby and we are looking at ways where we can accommodate them and we are working towards that," SANZAR chief executive Greg Peters told ESPN but he stressed there was no guarantee being offered to the Argentina Rugby Union (UAR) at this point.
"We are in the process of making that decision with the three partner unions," said Peters. "SANZAR is a joint venture and as such it is very much like a marriage and so there will need to be some compromise along the way to at least partly satisfy the strategic imperative of the three unions.
"We are working through that alongside a range of principles that have been previously agreed by the SANZAR unions, amongst those are that South Africa needs to have six teams in the new version and that we are working to incorporate Argentina if at all possible into the future structure - but there are others things that are major considerations for us including player welfare."
On that issue, SANZAR has also reiterated their support for a call by the world's leading players for a change to the structure of the global season that would see the June international window move to July and the Super Rugby season to be played in one window - rather than split either side of the mid-year Test clashes as it is now.
"We are fully supportive of a move from June to July that would allow us to complete our Super Rugby season without interruption," said Peters, "but we are aware that there are number of conversations to be had at national union level between the northern and southern hemispheres as to how that might work for everyone."
That proposal would also be introduced in 2016 when Argentina could make their Super Rugby bow - but right now they will have their eyes on a more pressing challenge, their Rugby Championship opener against South Africa in Johannesburg on Saturday.
"They have got another strong team including the evergreen Felipe Contepomi who is coming back to lead the team and I am sure they will be competitive as always," said Peters. "In last year's Championship they were perhaps a 60 minute team but you saw the impact their inclusion when they went on to beat Wales at the end of the year and became an 80 minute side.
"We're hoping this year sees Argentina get their first win in the Rugby Championship - I'm not prepared to say who that might be against - but it would be fantastic if they achieved a step up from the draw they achieved last year."
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd
Graham Jenkins is the Senior Editor of ESPNscrum and you can also follow him on Twitter.
Ahead of England's clash with Samoa, Scrum Sevens takes a wander down memory lane and celebrates seven examples of Pacific Islands magic
England must find a way to improve their game by tiny margins and they will get there, writes Phil Vickery
"England remind me of a PlayStation rugby team," John Mitchell on tactics and the search for a first-choice fly-half ahead of the World Cup
Augustine Pulu will return home with little more than 20 minutes rugby in one month on tour. It is time for more midweek games writes Craig Dowd