The dream of the Rugby World Cup being played in South America was boosted significantly several hours ago as Argentina was awarded for six years of hard work by being accepted into a new Super Rugby competition to start in 2016. Argentina will have one team in the new competition and will contract the country´s best players, bringing home the biggest names from Europe who will subsequently play in the Rugby Championship.
The announcement was made at 4:36am Argentine time by SANZAR, the governing body of the Super Rugby and the Rugby Championship. At the forefront of the campaign and at the meeting was former captain and IRB Hall of Famer Agustín Pichot who has done for the the sport of rugby in his post-playing days than arguably any other person alive. Since hanging up his boots Pichot has seen Argentina gain its overdue place in an expanded Tri Nations and has been working behind the scenes on having Argentina host Rugby World Cup 2023.
As a player Pichot left his mark on history in a number of ways. Together with Felipe Contepomi the Pumas 9-10 combination took Bristol to the English Premiership final while with Juan Martín Hernández he formed a 9-10 combination that won the Top 14 with Stade Français. It was history making as Pichot became the first non-Frenchman to captain to lift the Bouclier de Brennus and several months later he delivered the global rugby order with a wake up call as he captained Argentina to victory over France in the opening match of the World Cup in Paris.
Pichot is now faced with putting together a squad for the 2016 Super Rugby season which is to begin in February, just over three months after the Rugby World Cup 2015 final. The strategy is for the UAR to contract forty players, many of whom are currently contracted to foreign clubs mainly in England and France but also in Scotland, South Africa and New Zealand. Signs are strong that the UAR will succeed in signing players with established Pumas Juan Figallo and Horacio Agulla having shared their delight with Patricio Connolly of ESPN Scrum.
Both players are possiblities for the team but Agulla is currently contracted with Bath until June 2016. As such, should this remain, he would miss out on the 2016 Super Rugby season. He is, however, a rare example as the vast majority are off contract at the completion of the 2014-2015 season. Agulla mentioned the significance and what it means for Argentina to, at long last, have professional rugby. Although Argentina would have one team rather than multiple sides it is merely a beginning and Agulla suggests that it is a path to be expanded on with Argentina having more Super Rugby teams down the line.
Also joining the competition will be a sixth team from South Africa. Although it has not been confirmed it is widely believed that Port Elizabeth will be the base for a new franchise with the Southern Kings returning to join the five South African teams currently involved in the competition. It is expected that the Kings and Pampas will play in a seven team conference while the Australian and New Zealand franchises will be a part of a ten team conference.