Argentinian rugby is set to fund a week-long tour from the Chiefs next year.
Fairfax Media can reveal the defending champions will make a 10-day trip to Buenos Aires for a one-off fixture against the Pumas, the week before Super Rugby takes a three-week recess during the June test window.
With the Chiefs' bye falling just before, coach Dave Rennie has pounced on a revolutionary project to combat the possibility of his side having a month with no competitive games.
Details of the imminent deal are still being finalised but all fit players, except those involved in the All Blacks' three-test series with France, will make the journey. Including extended management, the touring group is understood to be more than 30 people.
"The bye was a chance to go to Argentina and give the Pumas a bit of a hit-out and the chance for our boys to play an international side," Rennie told the Star-Times. "In the old days you'd have teams touring the country playing provincial sides. That's a rare thing nowadays.
"We'll take most of the main squad, barring a few broken guys and the All Blacks, and maybe a couple of extra guys from our development squad. It's a bit of a carrot for those guys."
While coffers at Hamilton headquarters are stretched thin, with no room in the budget to pay for the South American venture, the Argentinian Rugby Union and some sponsors have stumped up initial cash to secure the match.
The trip will see Rennie, Wayne Smith and Tom Coventry provide coaching clinics, and players will also visit poor communities.
"There's no money in our bank, so we need the support of the Argentinian Rugby Union to make it happen. They're keen on the fixture. We're still sorting out the logistics from a financial point of view," Rennie said."Obviously there's sponsors involved. There's potential to make a bit of money on the gate. We're pretty confident it will generate enough money so it won't cost the Argentinian Rugby Union. That's the plan."
Argentina's top players are based in Europe and won't be involved in the match. The Chiefs will effectively take on a second-string national team which will resemble the one that beat France in one of two tests this year.
At this stage, Rennie's men leave the day after their clash with the Crusaders on May 24, and arrive back five days before the All Blacks' first test - and World Cup final rematch - against France at Eden Park.
That time-frame ensures the majority of the Chiefs squad will be given 12 days rest. Another local game against a combined Counties Manukau and Bay of Plenty team is being lined up.
"We're still keen to have one more hit-out in that three week window to make sure we're ready to go."
- Sunday Star Times
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