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Argentina targeting 2016 Super Rugby franchise

REX GOWER
Last updated 11:50 20/12/2013

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Argentina hope to have a Super Rugby franchise from 2016 and will hold talks with senior officials early next year, the national union's (UAR) communications manager Guillermo Quevedo said.

"There will be a meeting with the Sanzar (South Africa, New Zealand and Australia) nations in March," Quevedo told Reuters at the launch of a new Pumas marketing drive at UAR headquarters.

Establishing one or two franchises in the southern hemisphere's top club competition is seen by Argentina as another step in their growth as a rugby nation, following their outstanding third place at the 2007 World Cup in France.

The UAR launched a new badge and team brand this week, in an effort to cash in on the Pumas' selling power.

"We pushed the idea that the Pumas should start to walk their own identity path in a similar way to that begun previously by world powers, particularly those in the southern hemisphere like the All Blacks, Springboks and Wallabies," said former Pumas centre Fernando del Castillo, an advertising executive who worked on the rebranding.

Having changed the badge, Argentina will also want to see changes on the field.

With less than two years to go until the 2015 World Cup in England, the Pumas are looking to improve having endured one of their worst years in recent memory with 10 defeats in 12 tests.

Daniel Hourcade, plunged suddenly into the head coaching hot seat in place of Santiago Phelan who resigned days before the three-test November tour of Europe, has been confirmed in his role at least until the World Cup.

He will have to resolve divisions over team objectives and tactics at the heart of the Pumas squad that contributed to disappointing Rugby Championship performances.

To this end Hourcade plans to promote more players from the second tier Jaguars and Pampas squads he coached before his Pumas appointment in October and rely only on the cream of Argentina's European-based exiles.

Argentina's rugby identity is symbolised by a puma thanks to a mistake dating back to 1965.

The cat on the UAR badge and Pumas shirts is a South American Yuguarete (jaguaraytay), an animal whose name reporters in Africa found difficult to pronounce during Argentina's first tour abroad.

Consequently, a South African newspaper called the touring team the Pumas and the name stuck.

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