Vamos Los Pumas

October 7, 2012

My farmer has taken some of our staff and a few strays to a Beldisloe Cup test in Australia for several years.

When asked why I didn’t go too, I’ve always said we’d both enjoy it more if I didn’t.

But the idea of going to Argentina with the All Blacks was different.

We hosted an AFS student from there and his family is now ours. Our links to Argentina have been strengthened by the marriage of a nephew to a woman from Buenos Aires; we’d had six trips there and I was very keen on a seventh visit.

We joined the 300-strong Air New Zealand All Black entourage which left New Zealand a week before the Rugby Championship test against the Pumas.

The nine of us in our group were all country people and included four farmers and a stock agent. We could have stayed in Buenos Aires and gone to an All Black practice but the call of the country was stronger so we headed out of town for four days to catch up with friends and visit farms.

We returned to the city on Thursday in time to join the entourage’s evening with the Club Atlético Ferrocarril General San Martín, home of the San Martin Rugby Club where we were entertained by  a three-part contest between former Pumas prop Serafin Dengra and former All Black Frank Bunce (Dengra won the haka, Bunce won the tango and I’m not sure who won the banner erection.)

The locals were very welcoming,  forgiving of my rusty Spanish and treated us to a delicious meal featuring meat cooked on the asado.

Saturday’s test was in La Plata about 40 minutes from Buenos Aires. We arrived there mid-afternoon for a couple of hours of pre-game build-up which included talks by Olympic gold medalist Mahe Drysdale and Frank Bunce.

Our journey from there to the stadium was eased by a police escort which amused us and gained the attention of people we passed, most of whom gave us big smiles and friendly waves.

Estadio Unico, which is covered,  seats 52,000 and had a capacity crowd.

It is alcohol-free which appeared to have no impact on the enthusiasm and enjoyment of the crowd.

All week advertisements had been encouraging people to hug each other while the All Blacks did the haka and most of those in the stadium did.

The noise from the crowd was deafening, especially when the Pumas scored first. They quietened down a bit as the All Blacks took control but continued to be good humoured and polite even though it was obvious the home side wasn’t going to win.

The only noise while the Puma’s player too a shot at goal was from New Zealanders which earned shocked looks from the locals. When thy were noisy while an All Black was taking a shot, the announcer asked them to show respect.

It was an amazing experience and while I still think my farmer and I would both enjoy the Australian excursions more if I didn’t go, my fears about what happens on rugby trips weren’t realised.

Air New Zealand looked after us well with good pre-tour communication, excellent communication and organisation in Argentina and their usual friendly but professional service. They finished by putting on a special flight from Auckland to Christchurch for southerners when a later departure than anticipated from Buenos Aires meant we’d miss the scheduled connection.

If they offer a similar trip in future I’d be very keen to go again.

The 54-15 score secured the All Blacks the Rugby Championship trophy but the Pumas didn’t give up and given the Wallabies’ injury woes could well beat them when they meet in Rosario this afternoon.

With Robbie Deans as coach my heart would usually back the Wallabies if they were playing anyone but the All Blacks. But with memories of the wonderful experience in La Plata so fresh, today I’m saying vamos Los Pumas.

P.S. Jame Ihaka covered the tour for the Herald: Day 1,  day 2, day 3, day 4, day 5, day 6, day 7 and day 8.


All Blacks win inaugural Rugby Championship

September 30, 2012

The All Blacks 54 – 15 win over the Pumas has made them the winners of the inaugural Rugby Championship.

Win or lose in next week’s match against South Africa, the All Blacks are the Championship champions.

The expansion of the Tri-Nations to include Argentina has been good for rugby.

The Pumas were always going to be the under-dogs but they drew against South Africa at home and had a win against the Wallabies in Australia.

They also scored first in both matches against the All Blacks.

Hopes of beating New Zealand for the first time today weren’t realised but while they lost the match they were not disgraced.

 


Hugs vs haka

September 29, 2012

A former Puma player is urging the team’s supporters to take part in a group hug when the All Blacks do the haka tomorrow.

Un ex Puma cantará el himno, se promueve un abrazo para contrarrestar el Haka y habrá camisetas para alentar valores. Propuestas solidarias en el gran duelo del sábado. . . 

“En el Estadio Unico, va a pasar algo único”, dicen. Ese es precisamente el lema de “Abrazo de Puma”, una iniciativa que tiene como objetivo alentar al equipo argentino en la previa al trascendental choque con los All Blacks, en el que intentarán obtener un triunfo histórico ya que nunca le pudieron ganar en los 19 tests matches disputados desde el primer enfrentamiento en 1976. . . .

La idea que apuntala a esta novedosa propuesta es abrazarse “con el de al lado”, replicando en las tribunas lo que harán los jugadores argentinos en el centro de la cancha, en el preciso momento en que los rugbiers neocelandeses -liderados por el medio scrum Piri Weepu- inicien con su cuerpo los movimientos intimidatorios para dar significado y fuerza a la tradicional ceremonia y danza tribal que representa el Haka, una expresión cabal de la pasión, el vigor y la identidad de la raza Maorí. . .

This (loosely) translates as:

A former Puma is promoting a hug to counter the haka as a proposal for solidarity in Saturday’s big match. . .

“In the United State something unique will happen,” they say. That’s the idea of “Puma Embrace”, an initiative which aims to encourage the Argentine team in the pre-mtach of the momentous clash with the All Blacks, in which which they try to get an historic triumph as they have never been able to win in the 19 tests matches played since the first meeting in 1976. . . .

The idea that underpins this new proposal is to embrace “the one beside”, replicating in the stands what the Argentine players will be doing in the centre of the field, at the precise moment when the rugby players-led by New Zealand scrum half Piri Weepu starts his body movements and intimidating strength to give significance and strength to the traditional ceremony and tribal dance representing the Haka, an expression full of passion, vigour and identity of the Maori race. . .

A haka versus a group hug – that will be an interesting match.

You can see more at Abrazo de Puma.


Loving that roof

September 25, 2011

It was raining steadily when we got to Dunedin late yesterday afternoon and we were more than a little damp by the time we got to the stadium.

Bu once inside, out of the rain and the wind, we were able to enjoy the pre-match entertainment from the Army Band and the fun of being part of a near-capacity crowd at an international fixture without being distracted by the wet and cold.

The Forsyth Barr stadium was a controversial project and some are still concerned about its cost. But it is a wonderful facility and there is no doubt that putting a roof on it has made it much more comfortable for spectators and players.

Whoever is in charge of building whatever will replace the Christchurch stadium should be consulting the people behind Dunedin’s and going for a roof too.

And the rugby? To my admittedly inexpert eyes, England never even approached top gear and the 67-3 score said more about Romania being mis-matched than the English team performing well.

They struggled against Argentina in their first match, last week the score in the game against Georgia flattered them and last night they showed little if any flair.

The question is, is that it or will they be able to go up several notches when they’re really tested in the quarter finals?

A couple of young Scots were sitting behind us. We asked why they weren’t in Wellington to support their own team. They said they’d had tickets for Christchurch, built their itinerary round that and it was too expensive to fly from Queenstown to Wellington so they were making the most of the Rugby World Cup experience.

We didn’t tell them our nephew and his Argentinean wife got cheap seats to fly up from Dunedin and will be at the Cake Tin today cheering on Los Pumas.

We’d booked a table at Filadelfio’s to enable us to combine dinner with watching the All Blacks vs France.

It’s too soon to relax, there are a lot of important games to go  yet. But last night’s 37-17 win  was a wonderful way for Richie McCaw to celebrate his 100th match for the All Blacks.

Like Inventory 2, I was moved to watch an obviously ill Jock Hobbs present Richie with the silver test cap.

P.S. – We noticed a photographer with a big lens on the catwalk high above the ground. It wasn’t us he was looking for though, it was Zara Philliips and he found her.

P.P.S. – The curtain raiser was a few hours before the main game. The Nude Blacks met the Romanian Vampires (with fangs and cloaks but sans clothes) in a match at Larnach Castle earlier in the day. (Don’t click the link if you’re offended by nudity).

Full credit to whoever saw the marketing opportunity – the Nude Blacks were sponsored by grabaseat and Bottom Bus.


Are we excited yet ? #4

September 12, 2011

We had expected to be in the minority wearing blue and white in Dunedin on Saturday but there were plenty of others supporting Los Pumas.

Some were Argentineans, some like us have an emotional attachment to the country and its people, some were supporting anyone who played the English and others were just getting into the Rugby World Cup spirit.

Whatever the motivation, the excitement at the stadium was at least equal to that we’d expect if a home team was playing.

Call us biased, but we decided Argentina was the winner on the night, though sadly Los Pumas weren’t on the field.

But excitement wasn’t just confined to the match. The city was buzzing and the hinterland is too.

Tourists, domestic and international, are spreading  – and spending – round Otago and Southland and no doubt further afield.

That stadium of 4 million has grown into 4 million plus friends and it’s fun.

Match of the day: Colac Bay vs Scottish supporters.

P.S. Has the gap between the top teams and the others closed or are they holding back? Often at this stage of a tournament there are run-away scores but this weekend several underdogs almost triumphed.


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