Monday, September 30, 2013

The UAR should make changes for the 2014 Rugby Championship

Los Pumas could play in Santa Fé in 2014
With one round remaining in Argentina´s second edition of the Rugby Championship it is time to consider possibilities for 2014 one of which is the venues. Pumas fans in a number of Argentine cities have written to me saying they want Los Pumas playing in their cities in 2014. 

For 2014 the UAR really ought to look to have the All Blacks home test played in the heartland rather than the capital city or province. There are no shortage of options but given the marketability that is the All Blacks and the size of the cities and their stadiums there would appear to be four. Buenos Aires or La Plata can still host a Rugby Championship test but it would be the turn of the Springboks or Wallabies as the visiting team. 

Part of what makes Argentina a special option for hosting a Rugby World Cup is the unique atmosphere. The hostile environment which visiting players are exposed to is not found anywhere else in the first tier of international rugby. The noice generated from spectators has long been commented by visiting players from Tier One nations while Pumas. Any home Pumas test has a vocal crowd which can act as a 16th player and this is true in Buenos Aires just as much as it is in the interior. 

In close matches the crowd can really make a difference and Argentina has the stadiums to move matches to different parts of the country. It also has the support with home tests outside of Buenos Aires having a history of attracting strong crowds. Since Argentina´s win over England at Twickenham in 2006 the UAR has utilized all of Avellaneda, Buenos Aires, Córdoba, La Plata, Mar del Plata, Mendoza, Resistencia, Rosario, Salta, San Juan, Santa Fé and Tucumán for home Pumas matches.

Argentina´s second largest city, Córdoba has a larger stadium than La Plata and is also located far away. It has a stadium that the UAR has used in the past and one certain to be in consideration for hosting Rugby World  Cup matches should the statements made in 2011 by UAR staff hold firm that Argentina is indeed interested in hosting the competition. It hosted Argentina v France in 2012 and attracted a strong crowd but was not considered for a test in 2013 with a circulating rumour suggesting that the governor of the province of Córdoba was not honest in charging the UAR for the use of the venue. 

Another venue used in 2012 that was not used in 2013 that ought to be considered is in the city of Santa Fé. Argentina faced Stade Français Paris in a warm-up fixture there before the 2012 Rugby Championship and also faced Ireland in a June international in 2007. The renovated stadium is complete with modern infrasturcture and, unlike Córdoba it has the spectators very close to the action. While Córdoba has an athletics track Santa Fé is rectangular just like most venues in Argentina.  

Two others outside of Buenos Aires province are those used by the UAR in 2012 and 2013 to face Australia and South Africa. Either of Rosario or Mendoza could host the All Blacks test in 2014 but there are problems surrounding both venues due to Mendoza being far from sold out for the 2013 match and the President of Rosario Rugby, José Costante suggesting that his city could lose out on hosting a match in 2014.

The UAR therefore ought to make changes with none of the 2012 and 2013 venues hosting the same fixture in 2014. Consideration ought to be given to utilizing the nation´s largest stadium, River Plate or El Monumental in Buenos Aires and if so it would be instead of La Plata. It is the same venue which hosted the 1978 FIFA World Cup Final. The style of play offered by South Africa is easier for Argentina to combat than is New Zealand´s style. The Springboks are also arguably more marketable in Argentina than Australia. 

Although the calendar for the 2014 competition remains unknown it is likely that there will be changes to the order of matches given that the 2012 and 2013 editions were identical. Argentina and South Africa, for instance, could find themsleves in Oceania for the first two rounds. The following therefore is taken from a perspective that the order of matches will be different, but not necessarily in the following order.

                  Possible Venues for 2014

Argentina v Australia
Santa Fé
Argentina v New Zealand
Córdoba
Argentina v South Africa
Buenos Aires

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