Pumas start new tournament against Boks
November 8, 2011
The logo for the Rugby Championship © SANZAR
The expanded Tri-Nations tournament has been labelled 'The Rugby Championship' as Argentina join the triumvirate of New Zealand, Australia and South Africa for 2012.
The Pumas will face the Springboks on the opening day of the tournament with Australia playing against New Zealand on the same day in a change to the one-Test a weekend policy adopted during the Tri-Nations. Each side will play six Tests, facing the other three participants both home and away.
Argentina's first Test on home soil is on August 25 against the Boks with the venue yet to be confirmed. And for CEO of SANZAR Greg Peters, the new tournament provides an exciting opportunity to re-invigorate the already competitive competition.
"The Rugby Championship is an annual contest between the 'best-of-the-best' in world rugby - nations who have won six of the seven Rugby World Cups," said Peters. "The regular participation of Argentina at a higher level is long overdue and we are excited about their inclusion in The Rugby Championship.
"Playing in the Championship will have significant benefits for Argentinean rugby as a whole and will bring new energy to the jewel in the crown of SANZAR. The Pumas, as they showed at the recent Rugby World Cup, play an exciting and different brand of rugby to the other three teams, which will definitely add a new dimension."
For the President of the Unión Argentina de Rugby (UAR) Luis Castillo the announcement signifies a historic moment for rugby in Argentina. "The Argentine Rugby Union and Argentinean rugby community is proud to be part of this great tournament," Castillo said. "We will work to maintain high standards in our rugby, with our ultimate goal being to keep generating resources for the development of rugby at the clubs."
And for South African Rugby Union CEO Jurie Roux, the new tournament will produce a more balanced distribution of travel - something which the Springboks have suffered from in the past.
"This is a significant moment in the history of Southern Hemisphere rugby and marks the launching pad to a dramatically changed landscape," Roux said. "It will add a new flavour and dimension to SANZAR rugby and offers the prospect of promoting rugby in other South American nations.
"It also ensures a more logical and balanced Championship with fixtures and travel evened out across the region."
The CEO of the Australia Rugby Union John O'Neill meanwhile believes the option to play a Bledisloe Test at the ANZ Stadium in Sydney every year in the next decade is an important move in their Trans-Tasman rivalry with the All Blacks. O'Neill said: "We have come a long way and to open The Rugby Championship with a Bledisloe Cup Test against our closest and most ferocious rivals - and to lock in that game against the All Blacks "same time, same place" for the next 10 years - is hugely exciting.
"To kick off that decade of Sydney Bledisloe Cup Tests in the same year we launch The Rugby Championship is wonderful for the game.
"Australia, New Zealand and South Africa have won six of the seven Rugby World Cups contested and Argentina reached the semi finals in 2007 and tested the All Blacks in a tough quarter final of the 2011 RWC. Argentina has waited a long time to play in a regular competition at the highest level and their inclusion into The Rugby Championship from 2012 provides that opportunity.
"To bring our four nations together and have them playing home and away in destinations so diverse in culture, weather and landscape will be spectacular. This will be the best of the best. It is why the name The Rugby Championship sits so comfortably."
The Rugby Championship:
August 18 2012 - Australia v New Zealand (Sydney), South Africa v Argentina (TBC)
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
The latest Week in Pictures takes in all the action from the weekend when rugby united behind Samoa
England broke their losing streak, but this was not them clawing their way back among the best, writes Tom Hamilton
Wales were just 13 minutes from a famous victory, but the lessons to be learned in defeat are almost exactly the same as those from previous near-misses, writes Huw Richards
Ahead of England's clash with Samoa, Scrum Sevens takes a wander down memory lane and celebrates seven examples of Pacific Islands magic