Hola Argentina

Hola Argentina

It’s a good time to be a rugby fan in Argentina. The South American country was added to the Rugby Championship in 2012, their national team the Pumas are preparing for this year’s Rugby World Cup, and from 2016 onwards, an Argentinian side will join the Investec Super Rugby competition.

Blues High Performance Manager Tony Hanks and Skills Coach David Hill travelled to Argentina last month and spent 10 days meeting local rugby players and presented at two coaching courses.
Today, Tony reports back on what they saw, and learned on their travels.

First up, what’s the temperature of rugby fever in Argentina?
Argentina is typically football-mad, but lately we’ve started to see Argentina dig their cleats in to the field of top rugby competition.
“You’ll go in to an Adidas store in Argentina and while there’s (Lionel) Messi shirts all over the front, there’s now a big section of All Blacks jerseys,” said Tony. Not to mention all the club coaches who came to hear Tony and David talk about coaching in New Zealand.

200 coaches from the Mendoza region attended a three-day coaching clinic, and then another 280 came to a one-day course in Buenos Aires.
“We were amazed at the number of coaches coming to the courses, it showed that they were really keen to learn from the New Zealand mindset and the way we coach,” said Tony.

What can we expect from the Argentinians in Super Rugby?
The Pumas are renowned for their scrummaging, mauling and forward play. Yet the coaches that attended the courses were keen to learn more about the NZ approach to back play, skill work and team attack, according to Tony.
“In a country full of football players, most of whom have learned to kick a round ball, they were really interested in David’s approach to kicking – those sessions were really popular,” said Tony.
Both David and Tony focussed their coaching clinics on skills and attack, working with young players from Liceo Rugby Club in Mendoza and at the Liceo Naval Club in Buenos Aires.
Who will we recognise in the Argentinian team?
A number of top Pumas have already started returning to their homeland for the start of 2016. Fullback Joaquín Tuculet formerly of Sale Sharks and Cardiff Blues and current Pumas captain and hooker Agustín Creevy from the Worcester Warriors have both returned to Argentina. While Utility back Juan Martín Hernández will return from a long career in France including stints at Stade Francais, Racing Metro and Toulon.
Tuculet, coached by Tony at Sale Sharks, told him that Argentinians are excited by the opportunity to play for a home based Super Rugby side and playing regularly against the best players from NZ, Australia and South Africa.
The travel will be challenging, but a number of the players have experience competing in long seasons and travelling extensively to play rugby.
Added to the growing list of Pumas returning for Super Rugby is the group of young, developing players, a number of whom played for the Pampas (Argentina’s Development Team) against our Blues A in March.
“They’re a team with a similar profile to ours,” said Tony. “They’re closely aligned with the Pumas (the National team), and the team will feature a lot of young players who have either recently started with the Pumas or are expected to join their ranks in coming years.