Saturday, December 31, 2011

Hugo Porta vs New Zealand - 1978

He has gone down in rugby history as the first player to be considered world class that Argentina ever produced. His achievements for Los Pumas were truely remarkable as he was able to transform Argentina from being considered a minnow rugby nation to setting the side on its path to where it is today. He was Argentina´s first  member of the IRB Hall of Fame and is universally considered as one of the greatest flyhalves of all time. His goalkicking abilities made his such a crucial player as any time Argentina were inside an opponents half Porta could be trusted to inflict pain on the opposition with a kick. Teams had to be on the constant alert as he was also very talented with dropkicks.

Porta made his international debut as a 20 year old vs Chile in 1971 and also faced Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay that year. The following year he was a part of the Argentina team which defeated South Africa (the team was known as the South African Gazelles) 18-16 in one of two matches. In 1982 he then kicked 21 points to defeat South Africa in Bloemfontein for a team known as the South American Jaguares due to the controversy surrounding apartheid. But it was his European tour in 1976 that first really saw his name underlined as a player of note. Argentina had been leading against Wales, then the best European side, before going down 20-19 following two late tries to the home side.  

Argentina´s famous 24-13 victory over Australia in 1979 was the match that have been said to have put Argentina on the map. The best player on the field was Hugo Porta as the flyhalf converted two tries, kicked a dropgoal and a penalty. Bigger things were yrt to come, however, as in 1983 Porta helped Argentina make history as Los Pumas crushed Australia 18-3 in Brisbane.  Two years latter Porta kicked Argentina into a 21-21 draw vs New Zealand. Porta played in the first two Rugby World Cup´s but was not able to make a notable contribution as Argentina´s only success was a win vs Italy in 1987.

While it took his success´ in the early 1980´s for Portta to become a household name, he had already made it known to onlookers that there was something brewing. Such an example was his performances in Argentina´s 1978 tour of New Zealand. The mighty All Blacks were too strong but Los Pumas did better than their reputation suggested and Porta proved to be a world class talent. He landed kicks from halfway and did what Jonny Wilkinson made himself famous for - dropkicking goals off both feet and doing so with little time or space. Truely a rugby legend, Porta paved the way for the future of Los Pumas as his career inspired many future stars.

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