Los Pumas to add spice to humdrum Tri Nations

2011-11-09 00:00

THE Argentinians will add spice, variety and balance to the humdrum Tri-Nations next year when they join South Africa, New Zealand and Australia in a new Southern Hemisphere competition.

Sanzar yesterday launched the new Castle Rugby Championship and the Springboks will kick off against the Pumas at a South African venue still to be confirmed.

The Argentinians are one of the world’s leading rugby-playing nations but have always been stuck out on a limb, playing in neither the Six Nations European tournament nor the Tri-Nations. The result has been that most of their leading players have plied their trade in Europe and their domestic game has suffered.

This new competition will not only boost Argentinian rugby but will bring a freshness to a tired Tri-Nations series while also levelling the playing field as regards travel.

The Springboks have previously suffered in the Tri-Nations, having to make the long trek Down Under to play both Australia and New Zealand.

The SA Rugby Union CEO Jurie Roux is delighted at the development.

“… The inclusion of our old friends from Argentina is a great day for rugby and recognises the rich history and passion for the sport in that country.

“It will add a new flavour and dimension to Sanzar rugby and it also ensures a more logical and balanced championship with fixtures and travel evened out across the region.”

Teams will play each other home and away for a total of 12 matches. The championship will kick off on August 18 and conclude on October 6. The fixtures have been scheduled in two-week blocks with week-long travel byes in between to ensure there is adequate recovery time for the teams.

The agreement confirming Argentina’s participation was recently signed in Auckland following months of negotiations with the Unión Argentina de Rugby (UAR) and the International Rugby Board (IRB).

The new-look tournament has been given a new name and a new fixture line-up with two Tests on each match day. Each participant plays home and away matches against each of the other three participants.

The Boks open their campaign against the Pumas in South Africa on August 18 before travelling to Argentina a week later.

Sanzar CEO Greg Peters yesterday described the new torunament as a “defining moment for Southern Hemisphere rugby and significant for world rugby”.

“The regular participation of Argentina at a higher level is long overdue and we are excited about their inclusion in the rugby championship. It will have significant benefits for Argentinian rugby as a whole and will bring new energy to the Tri-Nations,” Peters said.

The rugby championship will feature countries currently ranked first (New Zealand), second (Australia), fourth (South Africa) and seventh (Argentinia) in the world and teams who have won six of the seven Rugby World Cups.

The Springboks travel east at the beginning of September as they undertake back-to-back matches against Australia and New Zealand before concluding the championship with home matches against the Wallabies (September 29) and All Blacks (October 6).

The president of the UAR, Luis Castillo, described his country’s inclusion as an historic moment for rugby in Argentina:

“The Argentine Rugby Union is proud to be part of this great tournament,” he said. “We will work to maintain high standards in our rugby, with our ultimate goal being to keep generating resources for the development of rugby at the clubs.”

Sharks CEO Brian van Zyl said yesterday that King’s Park is unlikely to host one of the three home Tests. “We had the Springbok-Wallaby Test this year and Newlands, Loftus and Ellis Park missed out [Port Elizabeth hosted the All Black Test]. So we are not expecting a Rugby Championship Test,” he said.

It seems certain that King’s Park will be a venue for one of England’s three Tests in June.

“A final decision on Test venues for 2012 will be taken at a meeting on November 17,” Van Zyl added.

FIXTURES IN 2012:

August 18: Australia vs New Zealand; South Africa vs Argentina.

August 25: New Zealand vs Australia; Argentina vs South Africa .

September 1: Travel bye.

September 8: Australia vs South Africa; New Zealand vs Argentina .

September 15: Australia vs Argentina; New Zealand vs South Africa

September 22: Travel Bye

September 29: South Africa vs Australia; Argentina vs New Zealand

October 6: South Africa vs New Zealand; Argentina vs Australia

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