May 25, 2013
By Frankie Deges
We’ve said it before: Argentine rugby no longer goes on vacation. Whilst rugby is played in various beaches along the country in sevens or even smaller formats by amateurs who can’t seem to relax, professional and semi-professional rugby in Argentina is fully operational.
The five High Performance Centres have now been opened for over a fortnight and last week, forty of the nation’s best players, worked very hard over five long days to kick-start what will be a long and busy season. Under the tutelage of coach Daniel Hourcade, who will again take the Standard Bank Pampas XV to compete in South Africa’s Vodacom Cup, those desperate to make it on that Johannesburg-bound flight were in fine form.
Specific aspects were worked on; morning and afternoon shifts were organized and no stone was left unturned as the coaches had everything prepared. Activities finished on Saturday morning with a match between two sides selected from the players in camp in La Plata. Another camp in Rosario will provide all the answers before the Pampas XV squad is named. The Vodacom Cup will be played from March to May.
Also in La Plata, on Friday and Saturday, national coaches met. This was done three times, successfully, in 2012. The goal, in the words of National High Performance Director Francisco Rubio is “to unify criteria and work on some technical aspects, analyse the game from their own perspective and share common experiences with the goal of providing the best possible preparation for our players.”
“These meetings are a key aspect of the HP programmes and very important in our search for perfection and trying to continue our sustained growth.”
National coach Santiago Phelan was with his Puma staff of Germán Fernández, Mauricio Re-ggiardo, Raúl Pérez and Martín Gaitán. Hourcade had his Vodacom Cup coaching partner Emiliano Bergamaschi. Under 20 coaches Rodolfo Ambrosio and Bernardo Urdaneta also attended, whilst the sevens coaching team had Nicolás Fernández Lobbe, Leonardo Gravano and Santiago Gómez Cora in La Plata — three other sevens coaches were in Wellington, New Zealand, preparing for the fourth round of the IRB Sevens.
Also attending to this coaching meeting were completed with the Managers for the five HP centres: Pablo Bouza (Litoral), Ricardo Le Fort (NorthWest), Pablo Aprea (West), Fernando Guatieri (Buenos Aires) and Galo Álvarez Quiñones (Centre).
Two national teams will be on show this weekend that also marks the start of the Six Nations in Europe. In Wellington, the Pumas Sevens will play the fourth round of the world circuit whilst the women’s VII will be competing for the first time ever outside South America.
They will play in Houston, Texas, the second tournament of the first IRB Women’s Sevens World Series. Their primary goal is in late February to qualify for Rugby World Cup Sevens. The ultimate goal is preparation and qualification for the Olympic Games.
Sevens legend Santiago Gómez Cora, IRB Sevens top try scorer with 230, will coach them this weekend and the next when they also play in an invitational event in Las Vegas.