- They take their name from the vast grasslands that produced Argentina’s famous cattlemen, the Gauchos, and they are about to shake up Super Rugby.
- March 5, 2014
The Pampas, who play a Waratahs A side featuring Cam Crawford, Rob Horne, Jono Lance and Tala Grey in Sydney on Friday, will form the core of the Argentinian team slated to join Super Rugby in 2016.
They are playing in Australia this month in the IRB’s Pacific Rugby Cup and beat a Brumbies A side boasting Clyde Rathbone, Josh Mann-Rea and rising star Allan Alaalatoa last week.
Waratahs coach Michael Cheika rates the Pampas the best team in the competition, which is functioning as Australia’s “Super B” tournament. NSW are using their Super Rugby bye week to help their second team prepare for Friday’s clash.
The Pampas have been around for a number of years, playing in South Africa’s Vodacom Cup for four seasons from 2010. But the nation’s likely inclusion in Super Rugby from 2016 has put the team front and centre in Argentina’s development plans and prompted their move to the PRC.
New Pumas coach Daniel Hourcade, who coached the Pampas from 2010 until he took over the Test job from Santiago Phelan late last year, is in Australia overseeing the side’s progress.
“The idea is to have this Pampas 15 and some of the players that now are playing in Europe [in the Super Rugby team],” Hourcade said. “We need them to play as many games as possible like this. We have come here to improve our level against the Australian way of playing, which is strong and dynamic. We need to be much faster and more dynamic.”
Pumas halfback Martin Landajo is captaining the side, which also includes Pumas rookies Tomas Lavanini (second row) and Patricio Fernandez (five-eighth). Fernandez was named man of the match in their 32-23 win over the ACT XV, scoring two tries and adding a further 12 points off the boot. He and Lavanini are among a number of Pampas players considered the new generation of Argentina Test regulars.
A bid to lure home big-name players from Europe is also at the heart of Argentina’s planning. Hourcade hopes the country’s inclusion in Super Rugby will give some of the Pumas’ best players – such as Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe, Juan Imhoff, Pablo Matera and Facundo Isa – a reason to stay at home year-round.
“With Super Rugby we will have at least 30 matches in a year, with 15 Super games, six Tests, six Rugby Championship Tests and some trials in June and November,” he said. “With this ambitious schedule players should not have to move to Europe to find a higher [standard of] competition.”
It will not bring everyone home, with the Argentinian Rugby Union (UAR) unable to compete with the salaries of some of the big French and English sides. But Hourcade hopes the development of the Pampas during the next two seasons will convince some to invest in their homeland’s future.
“They will have to make a decision, go for a better salary in Europe – which is a reality – or trust in the project and be proud to play for Argentina,” he said.
The Pampas play the Waratahs Gen Blue at David Phillips Field in Daceyville on Friday at 3pm. Entry is free.