Lukhanyo Am of the Sharks challenged by Jeronimo de la Fuente (right) and Matias Orlando of the Jaguars during their match at Kings Park in Durban in April. Photo: Muzi Ntombela/BackpagePix

CAPE TOWN – Is it fair that the Jaguares - essentially a Test team - get to play in Super Rugby?

In the wake of the Jaguares’ 23-15 victory over his former team, the Waratahs, former Wallaby hooker Phil Kearns deplored their involvement and the team’s likeness to the Argentinian national side.

“They’re the national team,” Kearns said on Fox Sports’ post-match coverage in Sydney. “They shouldn’t even be in the comp. This is a provincial competition. Have a provincial team in it - that’s what it’s about. It’s not about having national teams being in it.

“I think Argentina have been incredibly smart and have hoodwinked the rest of Sanzaar because they’re going to have a magnificent World Cup team, there’s no doubt about it - they’ve played together for the last three years.”

The Jaguares top the South African conference and are second on the combined log after eight wins and appear set to host a historic home quarter-final.

They have also won both their matches against Australian opposition, while they still have to meet the Reds in Brisbane this weekend.

So, are Kearns’ comments just sour grapes or valid points?

While the timing of his comments are certainly suspect, it’s valid.

Of Mario Ledesma’s 46-man preliminary World Cup squad, 36 players come from the Jaguares.

They are the only team in Super Rugby that mainly consists of first-choice internationals (and while Kearns would probably be quick to forget the Waratahs’ past heavy Wallaby flavour, it’s not the same).

Australia great Phil Kearns in action for the Wallabies in 1991. Photo: Action Images
Australia great Phil Kearns in action for the Wallabies in 1991. Photo: Action Images

One also has to ask, though, if the makeup of the Jaguares team would have been a concern had they still been Super Rugby’s speed bag.

Probably not.

But they are virtually a Test team - a Test team in a provincial competition competing against provincial teams, as Kearns said.

They were brought into the southern-hemisphere competition to develop rugby in Argentina, and that’s all good and well.

You could see the rise of the Jaguares as good competition for other sides, you could see it as increased competition which will, in turn, cause especially South African and Australian teams to raise their game. But their growth isn’t the only important factor here and it shouldn’t be prioritised.

Besides, if development is the main goal, then Argentina should have more than one team in the competition, instead of their Test team basically being granted an extended warm-up period ahead of the Rugby Championship and, in this case, the World Cup.

While it’s good to see the improvement they are showing, has their involvement done more good than bad for the other Super Rugby participants, especially in terms of travel?

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And while I’m not saying they should get kicked out of Super Rugby, the situation cannot be described as fair.

Let them compete as franchise teams instead of the Pumas in disguise by adding more teams from Argentina.

That would be fair.



Cape Times

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