Following the success of the Jaguares in reaching the Super Rugby final in just their fourth season, speculation is rife about a second Argentinian team entering the competition.
Though it is only conjecture, of course, with the South American nation having given no indication of its plans along these lines. Super Rugby itself, meanwhile, is set for a further reduction of teams in 2021, with the departure of Tokyo’s Sunwolves.
What does seem certain, however, is that Argentina would be more than capable of fielding a second competitive franchise if the opportunity arose.
Aside from the Jaguares’ success, we have seen the Pumas’ reach the World Cup semi-finals in two of the last three tournaments, while the U20s achieved the same feat at this year’s Junior World Championships.
Meanwhile, the involvement of a Jaguares development XV in the South African Currie Cup first division will provide a real insight into just how strong a second Argentinian franchise might be. The team marked its debut with a 50-43 win over the Griffons in Welkom on Saturday. The starting line-up was as follows:
1 Javier Díaz, 2 José Luis González, 3 Martín Segurotti, 4 Jerónimo Ureta, 5 Franco Molina, 6 Lautaro Bavaro, 7 Francisco Gorrisen, 8 Rodrigo Bruni, 9 Gregorio del Prete, 10 Teo Castiglioni, 11 Julián Domínguez, 12 Bautista Ezcurra, 13, Agustín Segura, 14 Tomás Cubilla, 15 Martín Elías.
The Argentina XV has been experiencing fluctuating fortunes, meanwhile, storming to both the Americas Rugby Championship and South American titles this year, after losing out to the USA and Brazil, respectively, in 2018.
The Argentina B team, however, was beaten by both Uruguay and Russia at last month’s Nations Cup in Montevideo.
A more interesting exercise would be to try and select a second Argentinian Super Rugby franchise based primarily along regional lines. Would a new team be based in the nation’s second largest city, Cordoba, with its population of 1.4 million, perhaps?
Located in the centre of Argentina, Cordoba is the capital of a proud rugby province by the same name, which has already contributed a number of players to the Jaguares squad. If these were to be included in a new Cordoba-based franchise, the starting line-up might resemble the following:
1 Franco Brarda 2 Jose Escuti 3 Enrique Pieretto 4 Matias Alemanno 5 Franco Molina 6 Cesar Fruttero 7 Conrado Roura 8 Federico Simonda 9 Lautaro Velez 10 Gaston Reval 11 German Schulz 12 Juan Cruz Mallia 13 Agustin Segura 14 Luciano Gonzales 15 Santiago Carreras.
Of course, a squad of around 40 would be required, and a few others right in the frame would have to include Eduardo Bello, Gaston Cortes, Facundo Gigena, Ignacio Calas, Facundo Lagos, Juan Bernardini, Martin Moyano and Fernando Luna.
Reports have already suggested Cordoba as the likely base for an Argentinian team in a proposed South American professional league (SLAR). However, an alternative might be the northwestern rugby stronghold of Tucuman.
Roughly half the size of Cordoba, the Tucuman capital certainly has the rugby pedigree, with 11 national titles and a very passionate fan-base. But it is not as accessible to international travellers as Cordoba, has a smaller economy, and comes off second best in terms of stadia. Probably it is more suited to SLAR than Super Rugby.
Nonetheless, there is no question the province could put out a strong enough team to be competitive in the SANZAAR competition, especially with support from neighbouring Salta province. A combined starting XV might be as follows:
1 Lucas Noguera Paz, 2 Diego Fortuny, 3 Juan Figallo Nicolas Mirande, 4 Manuel Plaza, 5 Benjamin Macome, 6 Facundo Isa, 7 Tomas Lezana, 8 Juan Leguizamon, 9 Gonzalo Garcia, 10 Nicolas Sanchez, 11 Ramiro Moyano, 12 Gabriel Ascarte, 13 Matias Orlando, 14 Mateo Carreras, 15 Tomas Albornoz.
Other players to be considered for a Tucuman-based franchise would include Javier Diaz, Jose Gonzales, Nicolas Miranda, Nicolas Sbrocco, Santiago Portillo, Domingo Miotti, Javier Rojas and Santiago Resino.
Cordoba and Tucuman aside, cities which might be suited to hosting a professional rugby franchise are Rosario and Santa Fe – both not far from Buenos Aires and joint hosts of this year’s World Junior Championships. Mendoza, the nation’s fourth largest city in the wine-producing province of Cuyo near Chile, is another.
Further changes to the Super Rugby format beyond 2021 are not likely until midway through the coming decade, however. The fans seem to want a return to round-robin, which could prevent expansion in the foreseeable future.
But if the Jaguares continue to improve at the current rate, going from 13th place to second in the space of four years, their case for a second team will become as irresistible as an Argentinian scrum before too much longer.