A good weekend
It was a good weekend for the oval game, both on and off the field. On the field, headlines were written on the final of the Campeonato Nacional de Clubes (National Club Championship), won by the Club Universitario de Buenos Aires with a heart-stopping 21-20 against Rosario’s premier club Duendes. Off the field, announcements were made on the entry of an Argentine team into Super Rugby from 2016-2020.
It was, beyond doubts, the best NCC since its birth in 1993 thanks to a renovated format and being played at the start of the season when everybody is on even terms. CUBA, Top 14 champion last November after breaking a 43-year drought, had the momentum on their side and was determined to have a great tournament. With a huge heart and a fair bit of luck, they managed to win their second consecutive trophy.
To be able to play at home in Villa de Mayo required a lot of internal dealing and wheeling. A centenary club, with a huge economic power thanks to the large membership, CUBA has been able to resist the temptation of sponsors and nothing commercially related has a place in the club. Yet, as this is a very expensive tournament for organizers Unión Argentina de Rugby it was already known that semi-finals and finals would require UAR sponsors placement. CUBA had won the right to host the final but had to agree to this. Fortunately, for players and supporters, club elders allowed and their team managed to win and celebrate on their own field.
The final had a lot of colour, noise, atmosphere and the two best clubs in the country. CUBA won it but Duendes had two late penalty opportunities to turn the game around that went amiss. It was a home win, but the big applause should go to tournament organizers as they have found a format that befits the best local rugby for players and spectators.
On the eve of the final, at the UAR headquarters, SANZAR CEO Greg Peters with local officials Fernando Rizzi, Víctor Luaces and Agustín Pichot, informed about the entry of an Argentine team to Super Rugby once the next television contract is signed for the period 2016-2020.
Even if there are still 20 months before it all starts, things are well on their way, with the confirmation of an 18-team format an Argentine and a sixth South African will join a yet to be created franchise in a venue to be determined. Champagne won’t be uncorked at the UAR until contracts are signed, though.
“We believe that sporting television rights are on the rise and even if it is an expensive tournament to run, we trust that we’ll have positive response in the markets,” said Peters. “So far we are on track.”
He also added: “We’ve seen Argentina come into the Rugby Championship and tick all the boxes that we required of them. They added a significant new dimension to the competition and it is now a natural extension to include them in the new competition.”