It wasn’t so long ago that the only ball shape in Argentina was that of a football and an empanada. But since last year, the country has indeed gone a little bit rugby crazy – at least a couple weeks of the year. As the Rugby Championship rolls back into town again, this is your chance to stand by Argentina for actually being quite good at rugby.
Rugby arrived here in the late 19th century from some Englishmen working in Argentina and the sport has slowly but surely gained fans across the country and especially in Buenos Aires, Rosario and Mendoza. So it was these three regions that were picked to host the first ever Rugby Championship with four nations, instead of three. Facing the southern hemisphere titans of New Zealand, Australia and South Africa, Argentina is certainly in good company on the pitch but last year they managed to hold their own as the newbies in the tournament, even if the score board doesn’t fully reflect that (Argentina was the only team not to win a match last year, but they did draw with South Africa when playing in Mendoza). “The draw last year was a huge result,” says Mendoza rugby coach James Dossor. “It’s the first time they haven’t been beaten by South Africa. This year they’ll be expecting to win one game at least.”
If you’ve ever been to a football match (or heard about the power of the football mafia) you’ll know how crazy the country gets over football so it is perhaps surprising that Argentina has developed such a fine knack for this ‘gentleman’s sport’. Gentlemanly as it may be on the rugby field, do not be mistaken: off pitch it still remains Argentine. Fans shout expletives, stamp their feet and fists in chants and throw toilet roll almost as much as they do in a football match… much to the distraction of the bewildered foreign players who have been trained to believe that a free kick is taken in silence. Not here.
The ‘onda’ of the game is all good fun though and you shouldn’t miss out on your chance to catch the games in Mendoza, La Plata (Buenos Aires) or Rosario this Winter.
Games in Argentina:
25 August: Argentina vs South Africa. Mendoza
29 September: Argentina vs New Zealand. La Plata
6 October: Argentina vs Australia. Rosario