Pumas to make 'Tri-Nations' debut in South Africa

Pumas to make 'Tri-Nations' debut in South Africa
By Reuters

09/11/2011 at 07:51Updated 09/11/2011 at 07:56

Argentina's Pumas will end the long wait for a place in a major annual competition when they make their debut away to South Africa in the opening fixture of the new Rugby Championship next August.

The calendar for the new competition, successor to the Tri-Nations that was played by Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, was unveiled by organizers SANZAR on Tuesday with the Wallabies at home to the All Blacks on the same day, August 18.

"The invitation to Argentina to join the Championship is a defining moment for southern hemisphere rugby and significant for world rugby," said SANZAR chief executive Greg Peters.

"The regular participation of Argentina at a higher level is long overdue and we are excited about their inclusion in the Rugby Championship," Peters added

"Playing in the Championship will have significant benefits for Argentine rugby as whole and will bring new energy to the jewel in the crown of SANZAR."

Argentina, who were the only team in the world's top 10 without a place in a top annual competition, boosted their chances of winning a spot in the Championship with their third place at the 2007 World Cup in France and regular ranking among the top eight.

In transition since the retirement of several key players including talismanic captain Agustin Pichot, Argentina had a creditable 2011 World Cup until their elimination by hosts and eventual champions New Zealand in the quarter-finals.

"The Pumas, as they showed at the recent World Cup, play an exciting and different brand of rugby from the three other teams, which will definitely add a new dimension," Peters said.

Pichot has played an instrumental part in Argentina's inclusion in the top southern hemisphere competition as the Argentine union UAR's representative in SANZAR.

"After many years of history and the hard work of many generations of players on and off the pitch, Argentine rugby will be part of the toughest and most prestigious tournament in the southern hemisphere," Pichot said.

A key factor in Argentina's participation was that they should play at full strength, with the International Board ensuring that European clubs, where many of the Pumas play their club rugby, would release Argentina's players for the August 18 to October 6 tournament.

Argentina had tried for inclusion in Europe's Six Nations championship because of the high number of their players at French, English, Irish and Scottish clubs. But Europe, having rounded off their numbers to six with the introduction of Italy, refused.

Argentina, who have yet to confirm their home venue though it is almost certain to be in Buenos Aires, will host the Springboks on August 25. They will play New Zealand in Wellington on September 8 and at home on September 29 and Australia at Skilled Park on the Gold Coast on September 15 and at home on October 6.