Thursday, February 20, 2014

SANZAR Approve Argentina to join Super Rugby in 2016

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. 


  1. Great news!

    The rugby landscape is truly becoming international.

  2. Hi Paul, thanks for this post.

    I'm at work so can't watch the video you tweeted about the latest developments regarding SANZAR expansion at the moment, lol... but is the inclusion of Argy a dead cert? I certainly hope so, but I read that the individual unions have to approve SANZAR's 17 team model separately... do you know if Argentina's inclusion is 100% assured, or could they still be bundled out if the Aussies/ Kiwis fail to approve SANZAR's recommendation? When it's all confirmed, I'll be one very happy rugby fan... Argentina deserve inclusion 110%!
    Cheers mate.

    1. The SANZAR body has accepted Argentina into Suepr Rugby the three unions now need to ratify it.

      There is the chance that a union could say no but it is not likely.

  3. why did argentina opt for only 1 franchise?at least 2 teams for Argentina could have helped in creating the needed depth for the Pumas team...

    Also what will become of players who decide to play in Europe and also which lig pays more the Super Rugby or Europe coz not everyone will welcome a pay cut

    1. Argentina was concerned with two being too expensive to begin with and also that it needed to adapt to the competition first and try to be competitive unlike other new teams such as the Rebels, Western Force or Kings.

      The idea is to expand to have more Argentine teams.

      Many in Europe are already on paycuts now as they cannot play in August or September due to the Rugby Championship. The Salary back in Argentina will be competitive but less than what is on offer for the top Pumas in Europe.

      Comments from players firmly indicates that they are extremely motivated to return home and play Super Rugby.

  4. Thanks for your post Paul. I'm an All Blacks fan and was initially delighted to hear the news of an Argentine team in Super Rugby... although I was somewhat cynical given my deep distrust of rugby politics and a lot of myopic attitudes that sadly seem to prevail in the boardroom. This decision by SANZAR was a pleasant surprise...however, when I learnt that all the three unions had to approve the proposal I rolled my eyes... as much as I'd like all three unions to approve the new 17 team tournament, I strongly suspect self-interest will prevail... and the article I've just read from further fuels my cynicism towards the attitudes at the top end of the game:

    What makes me really angry is the breathtaking ignorance of some of the comments in the article... the idea that Argentina won't be good enough... how they think a team full of Argentinian internationals will be competitive is beyond me!... and then the assertion that an Argentinian franchise wouldn't interest NZ fans I find ridiculous... it'll add a new dimension to the competition if anything... the comments stated in the article are so far from my own (apart from Steve Tew's words right at the end!), and frankly I feel embarrassed by most of them... while I do understand the concerns about player welfare, presuming that the 17 competition will be round robin (with teams alternating who they play home and away over a two year cycle, as was the case in Super 12 and Super 14), then each team will ONLY have to travel to Argentina once every year... I can't see how that's that much different from what they're already doing when they go to SouthAfrica...

    If the NZRU or any other SANZAR union blocks this proposal, I don't think I'll bother following rugby anymore... the constant efforts to frustrate the development of the game have made me bored and cynical towards the whole thing... football, golf, tennis, basketball, volleyball etc (although I prefer rugby as a sport to these) are much more competitive in terms of the number of top quality sides, both at international and club level...

    Hopefully the interests of the world game will win over parochial self-interest... if it doesn't, then I don't think I have the stomach for any more...

    Keep up the good work on the blog mate :-)

  5. At least Taine Randell was more positive but he brings up the logistical questions that I brought up in an earlier Super rugby peice. The travel for one game in Argentina is going to be huge. And it seems South Africa is completely against a conference system where they wouldn't play NZ and Australia sides in the regular season. I agree with Taine. Two teams in Argentina makes much more logical sense, even if one is a hybrid that includes US, Canadian and other CONSUR players that might be able to pick up sponsorship interest from those countries to help pay the expenses.

    Quote from Randell:

    I'm not against Argentina involvement in Super Rugby. If they are to expand, I like the idea of bringing in new territories.

    Rather than 17 teams, I believe a Super 18 might be a better way to go and if we are going to hold out a helping hand to Argentina, then perhaps we should have offered them two teams.

    It would make a lot more sense for teams to travel to Argentina for a couple of fixtures rather than just a one-off match which will carry huge expense.

    This competition now stretches right across the bottom of the globe and there are going to be some massive air points collected.

    There's also going to be a big fatigue factor for the Argentina side. The South African teams have long lamented the amount of travel they have had to put up with, taking on teams either side of the Tasman. The Argentine side will have more on their plate than that.

    But in essence it's good to have the South Americans involved in terms of the international game.

    They will benefit hugely if they can manage to get more of their top players involved in a competitive local team rather than relying on European clubs.

    The knock-on effect from this should ultimately be a more competitive Pumas team in test rugby and that can only be good for rugby overall.

  6. ...As for dave Rennie. I am REALLY disappointed that a fine coach like him has come out with such a poor view of the expansion. And for david Moffet's opinion that SANZAR isn't responsible for growing rugby outside it's own areas. What a load of rubbish. The SANZAR unions are world leaders in the sport. Leadership means helping others get better.