December 6, 2013
Hourcade will bring a new air
These are times of change in Argentine rugby and Santiago Phelan’s resignation as Pumas coach a few weeks short of finishing his second, two-year contract was a clear sign that many things need to change.
Daniel Hourcade, nicknamed Huevo, will take the reigns of a team that has three test matches in quick succession: England in London on Saturday November 9, in Cardiff against Wales on the November 16 and against Italy, in Rome, a week later. Hourcade will have little time to show the good coach he is, well known for putting together happy teams that work hard for him and each other.
It won’t be easy; beyond the hard games, the team needs to find a focus and put aside its own demons very quickly. They lost their captain Juan Martín Fernández Lobbe to a painful elbow injury last Saturday. Who the new Puma captain will be is a huge conundrum for Hourcade.
The new Puma coach would be well advised to read Veco Villegas, Pasión por el Rugby, a book launched last night at the San Isidro Club. This is the sixth book written by Sebastián Perasso and is published by Editorial Zona de Tackle. It will be released later this week.
Villegas, killed in an airplane accident together with wife Maricha in 1988, is remembered as arguably the most emblematic coach our country has ever seen. His numbers are incredible: SIC won close to 82% of the 423 official matches played under him; started coaching the team aged 25 and was with them for 19 seasons until his early death.
One of the 62 matches SIC lost during his tenure was against CUBA, who this past Saturday became Buenos Aires RU champion after 43 winless seasons. Some years ago, CUBA had problems with the scrum, a passion for Villegas and a formation that SIC dominated, so they invited him to give them a few hints. A good teacher he was that same year, the “Cuban” scrum beat SIC and with it won the game. There are many stories like this one and the book is a good reflection for the personality of a unique, never forgotten coach.
His great friend and co-coach was Emilio Perasso, whose son wrote the book. “It was a team work with a lot of help from many sources, including family and the many friends he had everywhere,” says author Sebastián of the coach who took over the Puma reins aged 29.
During his brief tenure with the national team, there were key moments such as the 19-20 loss against Wales in Cardiff in ’76 and the 18-all draw against France in 1977. As with Phelan, he also resigned from the Pumas when he did not agree with a decision taken by the UAR in 1977.
Today, as the Pumas seem unable to steer out of their own issues, Hourcade will bring a new air. Time is against him as there is a lot to work on and fences to be mended.
“His message is totally applicable today despite all these years. Veco used to listen a lot and made players feel important. He would convince them and that alone made them better players,” Perasso concludes .