Monday, February 17, 2014

New Zealand looking to block Argentina´s entrance into Super Rugby

The admission of an Argentine rugby team into Super Rugby has been scheduled to be confirmed this coming Thursday, February 20 for quite some time. Multiple sources from Argentina and the three existing SANZAR members have made it well known that Argentina is set to join Super Rugby but the latest information coming out of Buenos Aires strongly indicates that there are parties involved who are attempting to block Argentina´s admission to the competition.

Members of the UAR management are set to travel to Sydney to meet with SANZAR CEO Greg Peters to resolve the question of including Argentina, or not in Super Rugby. Meetings will take place from Thursday - Saturday with the fate of Argentine rugby in Super Rugby being determined. It is to be a crucial moment in the history of Argentine and global rugby due to both requiring a professional system in place to ensure that Los Pumas can continue to be a top flight team and that the UAR can become self sufficient.

There are four possibilities to be considered by the Peters administration. The first is an unchanged Super Rugby competition with five teams per nation while the second would involve a seventeen team competition with a sixth South African side and an Argentine side in which all teams would play each other once. Thirdly, a two-conference model involving one with ten teams and one with seven which would see Argentina playing with the six South African sides but the option is viewed as problematic due to future expansion being possible to include Japan, Singapore and the USA. The fourth option would be to have two conferences but one having ten teams and the other having eight. 

Of the four options the two considered to be those with the greatest chance of being approved are the first and fourth. The fourth option would require two Argentine franchises not one. The UAR has been pushing for the addition of one side which would see Los Pampas XV converted into a Super Rugby team and contract forty players including the best currently playing abroad. According to Iván Pelisch of one of Argentina´s leading newspaper, Clarin, the chances of Argentina´s inclusion being accepted is at present 50%

Clarin explains that what is preventing Argentina from gaining admission is New Zealand. The NZRU is not being happy with an Argentine team entering Super Rugby due to a belief that Argentina would not be good enough to play in the competition. Both Australia and South Africa also have reservations too with questions being raised from both, in addition to New Zealand, over the lack of any financial reward for having an Argentine team involved. 

Questions over the competitiveness of an Argentine team appear to be misdirected. Last month former Pumas captain and IRB Hall of Famer Agustín Pichot outlined a model to take effect in 2015 in which the best forty Argentine players will all be contracted to the Union and play Super Rugby. Although Argentina has had issues in the Rugby Championship it has nonetheless drawn a match with South Africa and lost by a point against Australia. 

Should Argentina´s admission not be granted then the UAR would have to look at other possibilities as it would quite possibly mean that the future of Los Pumas in the Rugby Championship would be clouded. The current agreement is for Argentina to play in the competition until 2015. D Day for the confirmation or refusal of Argentina´s much need place in Super Rugby will be this coming Saturday. 

Although the unions have the right of opinion it comes as grave concern for the future of global rugby and questions the international order. Should Argentina be deemed not good enough then the liklihood of the Pacific Islands, USA Japan or anyone else being included in Suepr Rugby are impossible. The World Champion All Blacks denied a request from Fiji to play a test in the country last year. It was to be an occassion to mark 100 years of Fijian rugby. Instead New Zealand faced Japan in Tokyo. Neither New Zealand nor Australia is yet to have played a test match in Fiji, Samoa or Tonga while none of the Six Nations have played in Georgia. 

The same nine unions hold two votes each on the IRB council - giving them a clear majority. They have hosteed every Rugby World Cup too date and were heavily ciriticized for allocating Rugby World Cup 2011 to New Zealand rather than Japan. The IRB responded by altering the process for the 2015 and 2019 allocation to improve Japan´s chances. As it stands Scotland continues to have the same voting power as Italy and Argentina combined. 


  1. Hi Paul, thanks for this post. I'm an All Black fan living in Colombia (NZ born, lived in the UK for a while too), and I'm disgusted that people want to block Argentina's entry in Super Rugby. I have long admired Argentina and what they have done to advance international rugby beyond the traditional status quo... and frankly the thought of the UAR being denied a team in the competition, due to politics and self interest, makes me sick to the stomach... Is there anything we can do as fans to stop this MASSIVE backward step for the game? I wrote to Greg Peters and all three SANZAR unions by email in late 2013, pleading with them to include the Argentinians in the competition for the good of the game... the idea that this would all fall on deaf ears is very depressing indeed... Thanks again for your blog, it's a great read and very informative. Keep up the good work mate!

    1. I've posted this on Twitter as well responding to Paul's post of this blog, and as a Kiwi here in New Zealand I absolutely agree and support your statement.

      Argentina has developed hugely as a rugby nation, they narrowly missed defeating South Africa in the Rugby Championship last year. They have heart, talent and passion, and they have the skill to back it up.

      Having an Argentinian team in Super Rugby would hugely benefit all the teams involved. Rugby fans LOVE Argentina for their passion and game play, they just bring a certain something to the field that can't be replicated.

      Super Rugby needs to wake up and look at all the benefits of this move, and NZRFU need to seriously consider the impacts blocking this great rugby nation would have.

    2. As another Kiwi I agree wholeheartedly with this sentiment. I thought the NZRFU had come to the realisation that for the Pumas to be part of the RC longterm, Argentina needed to have a team in Super rugby. You have to wonder if this is a ploy by the NZRFU to stop Argentina being in the RC after next year. It does have to be said that the Pumas have taken some bad defeats, particularly last year, but that was always going to happen and new teams don't become instant champions! I don't think it's devalued the RC. And if the NZRFU want a more competitive RC with the Pumas then this is the best way of going about it.

      I just wonder if the decision has been made to continue with every team v almost every other team meaning some NZ teams will have to journey to Argentina every year and the NZRFU has cried too much in terms of player travel. That to me is the only valid reason I can think of. I certainly think if Argentina has a Super team then there needs to be split conferences. However the NZRFU has always played love with South Africa because of its stronger financial status and the fact that the SA teams though once seen as the weak link are now seen as great contests (while the Aussies are seen as less so overall ) but if a conference system starts NZ would only play them in the playoff rounds so would very possibly lose out financially and a conference without any South African content would be seen as a weaker product due to how Australian rugby is perceived in NZ at the moment. Hence NZ may have opposed the divided conference system, and thereby also opposed Argentina due to logistical reasons in a non-conference based league format.

      Paul, the best way to add pressure to the debate is to get it into the NZ media. I'm surprised no one from the Argentinian media has done so, so far. Many fans back Argentina, but they don't make the decisions. The NZ media needs to get involved and give NZ fans an avenue to vent their support for an Argentinian team and pressure the NZRFU. But if no one in NZ knows apart from a few people on here, the NZRFU can get away with doing what it wants without receiving any damage.

  2. entre aqui y me voy con una bronca!! No puede ser que No quieran a argentina en el super rugby y quieran equipos de japon, fiji EEUU?? no es creerme superior lo que yo creo es que Los pumas son MUCHO mas que esos paises! que metan a japon, eeuu fiji al The rugby championship y van a perder por un puntaje MUCHO mayor al de argentina

  3. Hi Paul

    I'm an All Black fan-- NZ born, now living in South America. Very worrying news for both Argentinian and international rugby... if the NZRU is indeed planning to block Argentina's entrance into Super Rugby, then in my opinion they have put self-interest ahead of what is good for the game. The Heineken Cup row, the constant refusal to let Argentina into the tri nations for years (until 2012!!) are some of the many reasons why administrators' are killing this sport and turning loyal fans like myself away from the game for good.

    I feel utterly powerless and frustrated as a fan... the game I love is being ruined by corporate greed.

    Thanks for your great website


  4. good report paul. saludos from argentina !

  5. An insightful report, indeed.

    I felt so deflated when reading it, if only because I would have thought that if one allows ARG into the RC then super rugby would soon follow.
    NZL seem to have issues with this though. The pumas certainly having setting the RC on fire, but what did one expect?
    If Paul, super rugby doesn't eventuate, what would be the UAR's next step? Pro rugby? Expanding into Europe and forgeting about the southern hemisphere?

    Also, what are the IRB going to do about this. Surely they must have some arm bending powers.