Thursday, August 21, 2014

Los Pumas: 50 Test caps for Marcos Ayerza

Photo UAR
Saturday's second round match of the Rugby Championship will see Argentine loosehead prop reaching the milestone of fifty test match appearances. El toro has been playing international rugby for a very long time. He made his debut in December 2004 and has played in two Rugby World Cups. With him having been competing with Rodrigo Roncero for the bulk of his career he has taken longer to reach the mark of 50 than others. In addition with Argentina lacking the same number of tests as others it  

With Argentina having been in the wilderness of international rugby for too long Marcos Ayerza has taken a decade to earn his fiftieth test cap. The long struggle for a place in an expanded Tri Nations or Six Nations was such that Argentina's players were restricted to playing test rugby only in the June and November international windows. 

The resticted number of six tests in most years meant reaching the mark of fifty was, indeed, a notable achievement, comparable perhaps to the mark of one hundred which players from Six Nations and Tri Nations members have been able to achieve far more easily. Indeed in Rugby World Cup 2011 both Keven Mealamu and Richie McCaw passed the mark despite both having debuted for New Zealand in November 2002. 

Ayerza's international debut came slightly less than two years later and now some three years after Rugby World Cup 2011 the Leicester prop has now reached fifty. In reaching the mark he joins Horacio Agulla, Juan Martín Fernández Lobbe and Juan Manuel Leguizamón - three players set to be involved in Saturday's match against South Africa. 

He is also moving closer to Rodrigo Roncero who was capped fifty-five times from 1998-2012. Ayerza should overtake Roncero this year while in 2015 he has the realistic opportunity of overtaking the sixty-five time capped Omar Hasan to become to most capped Argentine prop of all time. Argentina is to play eight more tests in 2014 and play no fewer than three tests in 2015 prior to the World Cup. Ayerza could thus overtake Hasan in England or Wales. 

For Ayerza the personal milestone is of little importance as the focus is on the team and, specifically, on winning Saturday's test match in Salta. Argentina is in search of its first ever win in the Rugby Championship and after having started the competition with a losing bonus point the South Americans are, in theory, better positioned to win than in either 2012 or 2013. 

Ayerza will lead the players out onto the field in Salta and be joined in the starting front-row by Ramiro Herrera and captain Agustín Creevy. The scrum impressed in Pretoria last Saturday and Los Pumas will be looking to repeat this in Salta.  

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