Pumas brought a new dynamic to Rugby Championship, says Sanzar chief Greg Peters
‘It would be great to see Argentina get up and win a game or two’
Argentina have made giant strides over the years but involvement in the Rugby Championship should help them develop their game even more.
Argentina’s first year in the Rugby Championship was a major boost to Latin American rugby but a victory in this year’s campaign could send interest in the region off the scale, according to Sanzar chief Greg Peters.
The Pumas made an impressive debut in the southern hemisphere’s annual Test competition in 2012, immediately proving they belonged with a draw with the Springboks and two narrow losses to Australia.
Santiago Phelan’s side begin their sophomore season on Saturday away to South Africa in Johannesburg and South Africa New Zealand Australia Rugby (Sanzar) chief executive Peters is convinced they will only get better this year.
“It would be great to see Argentina get up and win a game or two,” Peters said yesterday. “They came pretty close last year and . . . I think they would back themselves to have a crack again. That would spark a lot more interest as they continue to improve.
“This is no criticism but for a good chunk of last year they were probably a 60-minute team, then they went to play Wales and were an 80-minute team and smashed them,” he added of the 26-12 victory in Cardiff last November.
“That’s the benefit of their involvement week in week out in a top-flight international competition. They advanced.”
The Pumas struggled to get regular international play for years until their third-placed finish at the 2007 World Cup forced administrators to find them a place at the top-table of rugby.
The southern hemisphere powerhouses agreed to expand their Tri-Nations competition, pending some financial guarantees from the International Rugby Board and plans that Argentina would look to establish a professional game.
The expansion into Latin America has proved a boon for television viewing figures, Peters said, and all of the Rugby Championship matches “rated their socks off”. “They have been a really good addition to the competition. They showcased the game in Argentina really professionally and the fan response was amazing.
“They also bring a new dynamic to the game that we haven’t seen before and the viewing numbers in Argentina rated its socks off. They were big numbers, particularly the All Blacks games, but interestingly also in games not involving the Pumas.
“So we want to grow that commercial value,” added Peters, who feels the long-term future rests with a professional structure being put into place in Argentina.