VIDEO: Argentina boss predicts bleak future
SPOTLIGHT: Argentina’s fate as a Rugby Championship nation is uncertain and the Jaguares’ slot in Super Rugby is at risk, Pumas coach Mario Ledesma admitted Friday.
A decision by world champions South Africa to pull out of the upcoming Rugby Championship in Australia over complications caused by the coronavirus sparked speculation they could walk away altogether.
It followed their move to withdraw most of their teams from the southern hemisphere’s provincial-level Super Rugby in favour of Europe’s PRO14.
And with Australia and New Zealand discussing a trans-Tasman version of Super Rugby, Argentinian rugby finds itself in a precarious position.
“At this point there is a lot of uncertainty in every competition. I don’t know what Australia’s doing, New Zealand’s doing, whether they’re linked together or playing apart,” Ledesma said in Sydney.
“What we know is it’s a really difficult situation for us because if South Africa go north and you guys [Australia and New Zealand] play [Super Rugby] between each other, I don’t know what that leaves us.”
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Ledesma, who has just emerged from a mandatory 14-day quarantine period after the team’s arrival in Australia, said Argentina was examining all options to keep the players competitive.
“With this pandemic, it’s so dynamic and changing all the time,” he said. “Today the situation is what it is and tomorrow it’s going to be what it is and we’re going to have to adapt.
“And if there is no competition for our boys they will look for competition elsewhere I guess.”
European clubs are a likely option. Argentina have 13 Europe-based players in their squad for their games against the Wallabies and All Blacks in the rebranded Tri-Nations.
Argentina are the heavy underdogs heading into the tournament, which starts on October 31, having not played a Test since the World Cup in Japan last year.
In contrast, Australia and New Zealand are battle-hardened after two bruising Bledisloe Cup games which followed high-quality domestic seasons.
Ledesma said his squad was “humbled” to simply be in Australia.
“Just representing the jersey in the best way possible and not taking a backward step and fighting all the time,” he said of their expectations ahead of their opening game against the All Blacks on November 14.
“It’s difficult to know where we’re at because we haven’t played in so long. But we are preparing to give a good run to Australia and New Zealand.”