SYDNEY – Jaguares coach Gonzalo Quesada has described calls for the Argentinian franchise to be kicked out of Super Rugby as “disappointing” and denied they had an unfair advantage by having the pick of Argentina's international players.
Wallabies great Phil Kearns this week claimed the team was a de facto national side and had “hoodwinked” governing body SANZAAR, giving Argentina an edge by regularly playing together heading into this year's World Cup.
“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,” he said.
Quesada told Friday's Sydney Morning Herald it was wrong to suggest the Jaguares' introduction to Super Rugby was part of a deliberate plan to strengthen the national side.
“I was surprised and a bit disappointed by those comments. What is disappointing is when he says something like we cheated or we cheated to SANZAAR or there was a strategy,” he said.
“The idea was to get an Argentinian team to be better. We are improving year by year. We are really thankful” to be in Super Rugby.
Kearns was speaking after the Jaguares, most of them Argentina internationals, beat his former team NSW Waratahs 23-15 in Sydney last weekend.
According to reports, they had more than 1,000 international caps across their squad.
The Jaguares, who play the Queensland Reds in Brisbane on Saturday, have the third best record in Super Rugby so far and are on a run of six wins from seven games, topping the South African conference by three points from the Sharks.
They entered the tournament in 2016 when it was boosted from 15 to 18 teams. It has since been cut back to 15, with South Africa's Southern Kings and Cheetahs, along with Australia's Western Force, axed.
Quesada denied his team had any advantage, saying Argentina only had enough players for one franchise, unlike the rest of the Super Rugby nations.
“Australia, South Africa and New Zealand were really generous giving us the opportunity to play this tournament,” he said.
“We don't have enough players to have more than one franchise. We don't have the infrastructure or players. We struggle to have a competitive team and that's the reality.
“I don't know if Phil's opinion is shared by other Australians and I would like to know if a lot of people in Australia feel the same way that the Jaguares shouldn't be there.”
Agence France-Presse (AFP)