Argentina have officially unveiled the country’s new Super Rugby franchise, Los Jaguares, naming former Pumas captain Felipe Contepomi on the coaching staff.
All of the 30-man squad, also revealed on Wednesday, have Test-level experience, with most being members of the Argentine team to reached the Rugby World Cup semi-finals in October in England.
Los Jaguares, who have been invited into next year’s expanded 18-team championship in which a Japanese franchise will also make its debut, will be coached by Raul Perez, right-hand man to Argentine head coach Daniel Hourcade.
“We are continuing on a growth path which takes us to our participation in the world’s best club competition, where we will face the best teams and best players on the planet,” the Argentine Rugby Union’s (UAR) new professional rugby manager Greg Peters told a media conference.
Contepomi, Argentina’s record Test points scorer, and former Pumas centre Martin Gaitan will be part of Perez’s coaching staff for the competition in which Jaguares make their debut on February 26 against the Cheetahs in South Africa.
They will play their home matches at the 50,000-capacity Jose Amalfitani stadium, home to first-division soccer club Velez Sarsfield in Buenos Aires, where the Pumas have played many home Tests.
Their first home match will be on March 18 against South Africa’s Chiefs.
The players, led by Pumas captain and hooker Agustin Creevy, are all home-based and contracted to the UAR.
Some, such as World Cup centre Juan Martin Hernandez and back-rower Juan Manuel Leguizamon, have ended their European club careers.
“This is something historic, that there should be a professional Argentine team in a tournament like this where the best rugby in the world is played,” said Creevy.
“I have no doubt that with Los Jaguares in Super Rugby, the sport will become even more popular (in Argentina) and … interest more people and potential players.”
Next year’s Super Rugby competition will expand from 15 teams and the three southern hemisphere powerhouses of New Zealand, Australia and South Africa.