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.