SANZAR favours Pumas' capital
Buenos Aires - SANZAR would like Argentina to stage two of their three home matches in their debut Rugby Championship next year in Buenos Aires, the southern hemisphere ruling body's CEO Greg Peters said on Tuesday.
"I strongly recommend the UAR (Argentine Rugby Union) hold two games in Buenos Aires and one outside," the New Zealander told an official presentation of Argentina's participation in the tournament which succeeds the Tri-Nations championship.
Peters, the CEO since last November of the body grouping Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, said his recommendation was based on the logistical concerns the visiting teams would face in Argentina over and above the long journey to get here.
He emphasised the importance of the new tournament by saying: "Next year we will have the first, second, fourth and seventh ranked teams in the world. We will have the best versus the best."
UAR president Luis Castillo said he would like to see the Pumas play their home matches in provincial venues as well as the capital.
Argentina will make their long awaited debut in a major international competition away to South Africa on August 18. On that day Australia will be at home to world champions New Zealand.
"This a historic day for national (Argentine) rugby...We are committed to showing we can be better," said Castillo, adding that for the Pumas this was like entering Formula One.
Former Pumas captain Agustin Pichot, who has played an instrumental part in Argentina's invitation to the tournament, said the UAR had broken the perception that Argentines were unable to plan long term.
"After (third place at the World Cup in) 2007 we committed ourselves to forming a team off the field (to push this forward) because it was unfair that the Pumas weren't (in a major competition)," Pichot said.
"I felt this as a player the most important thing was that the players should have the opportunity. It's going to be very hard but that's how you learn."
A key factor in Argentina's participation was an International Board ruling obliging European clubs, where many of the Pumas play their rugby, to release them for the tournament and the June and November international windows.
SANZAR president Mike Eagle said SANZAR was keen to encourage Argentines to take part in competitions at all levels in the three SANZAR countries with the ultimate goal of a franchise in the Super Rugby club competition.
"By having your players in the southern hemisphere, you won't have the problems you have (now) with your players in the northern hemisphere facing the restrictions of each country," he said.