|Getty Images: Rodrigo Capó Ortega (right) is a French Champion|
The shock of Castres winning the Top 14 Final could well take some time to go away. It was the battle of David v Goliath with Daivd coming out on top as Toulon´s team of star-studded veterans was outplayed by a small town side from South-Western France on Saturday evening in Paris. Toulon fielded capped international players of note from Argentina, Australia, France, New Zealand and South Africa. All fifteen starting players were capped and there were World Cup winners from Rugby World cup 2003 and 2007. Castres, in contrast, had a far more humble side with the teams French internationals being far from established internationals. Marc Andreu and Brice Dulin started int he back-three, South Africa produced Antoine Claassen played backrow and newcomer Remi Tales played flyhalf. Veteran Ibrahim Diarra was also in the starting lineup as were other international players - Fiji´s Seremaia Bai and Uruguay´s Rodrigo Capó Ortega.
If there is anybody who has been through high profile up´s and down´s in elite professional rugby it is Uruguayan secondrower Rodrigo Capó Ortega. Aged 32 the man from Montevideo started in the Top 14 final and played the first three quarters before being replaced by Samoa´s Joe Tekori. The Toulouse bound Samoan is one of Castres´ longest serving players. he arrived at the club in 2007 from New Zealand. He has been at the club for longer than all of the Frenchmen starting the match for Castres. he was not the longest serving Castres players involved in the final though. Instead he was second to Capó Ortega who arrived at the club in 2002, one year after Romain Teulet who was on the bench as the replacement fullback.
Ten years ago the career of Capó Ortega could have been seen as a gateway for others to follow. It did not work out this way as despite Uruguay having a successful World Cup in 2003 with a good win over Georgia the side was unable to develop further and has been through a decade othat have seen the team failed to qualify for the past two Rugby World Cup´s and Capó Ortega has remained the only Uruguayan player at the elite level as a professional. issues between his Montevideo club, Carrasco Polo, and the URU led to players from the club missing out on test duty and Capó Ortega stepped down as captain and has not played for his country since 2009. With the union having obtained an official stadium now complete with training facilities there is room for optimism that Uruguay could qualify for England 2015. Capó Ortega will be needed back and, indeed, he may well face North American 2 in November.
All the hard work has paid off for Capó Ortega at club level. He has endured good and bad moments with serious injuries and the danger of relegation playing their part. The Uruguayan, though, has remained loyal to Castres and will see out his career at the club. With the Uruguayan national flag wrapped around his waist Capó Ortega carried the Bouclier de Brennus down the stairs from the stands to the field for the post match photos and victory celebration. He joined Romain Teulet in transporting the huge shield which was a sign of respect for two of the most important contributors to the club. For both players it was mission accomplished and a genuine fairy tale and certainly a career high. In winning Capó Ortega becaem Uruguay´s third French champion. Previous winners were secondrower Juan Bado and prop Pablo Lemoine who were in Champions with Stade Français in 2004.
Youngsters in Uruguay as well as the country´s leading players now all have a player to become the national rugby hero. It is also a good result for the Rugby World Cup in the long term. Having a player from Uruguay become a French Champion underlines the need for Rugby World Cup´s to be played in more places. Capó Ortega played rugby in Buenos Aires, where he spent some of his childhood. Rugby World Cup 2023 in Argentina would be for all of the Americas and Uruguay would benefit significantly.
Despite the result the match was highly positive for Pumas captain Juan Martín Fernández Lobbe. The Buenos Aires backrower performed very well with a high workrate around the park. He had a high tackle count, carried well and won turnovers.