Monday’s Rugby News looks at the Pumas stunning victory, a new trans-Tasman competition, Vunivalu’s rugby shift and a sudden retirement at the Brumbies
Argentina has made history, beating the All Blacks 25-15 for the first time ever at Bankwest Stadium.
The Pumas have had a rough journey to Australia, with players forced to train individually in lockdown for several months before serving an extensive quarantine period.
With their country in the gripes of a second/third wave, ‘Los Pumas’ gave them something to cheer about in their first game back since the 2019 World Cup.
Flyhalf Nicholas Sanchez was immense, scoring all 25 points as the Pumas dominated the near full-strength All Blacks side over the 80 minutes.
This came as a result of their incredible work at the breakdown, with captain and future knight/sir/king Pablo Matera playing the game of his life.
The win left coach and former Wallabies assistant Mario Ledesma in tears post-match as the squad celebrated with a passionate group of fans in the corner of the stadium.
“For us, and for everyone, I think it’s the only team we haven’t beaten,” Ledesma said.
“I think we’ll remember this for a long time – not only because of the game but this special situation that got us to this point.
“I guess someone will write a book about it.”
Ledesma and the Pumas seemed to benefit from the influence of former Wallabies coach Michael Cheika as an assistant, with his siege mentality and passion fitting in nicely with their culture/playing style.
“I’m not going to talk about the whole experience that he has as a coach and all the things that he can bring to the game. But seeing us as a team from the outside, he just came the first day and said, ‘what are you waiting for – you’ve got everything’,” Matera said.
“You’ve got big players, physical players, young players, a lot of energy – go and take it. Just go and take it, what are you waiting for?
“And I think that made us believe a lot more in ourselves, so it’s been great to have him around.
“It’s not just about the rugby thing, he feels the game in a special way too.”
Rugby Australia and New Zealand Rugby have announced a historic trans-Tasman domestic tournament for 2021.
The tournament will follow their respective Super Rugby AU and Aotearoa domestic competitions, featuring all 10 Super Rugby teams with each Australian team to play each New Zealand team in 25 crossover matches before the Final.
It is set to kick off with a battle of 2020 champions, with Australian champions ACT Brumbies set to travel to New Zealand as they face the Aotearoa and defending Super Rugby champions Crusaders.
Along with this, round three will serve as a ‘Super Round’, with all games set to be played in the same location, which is yet to be determined by the governing bodies.
As part of the new broadcast deal, all 26 matches in the tournament will be live on Stan Sport, with one game per week shown on the Nine Network.
“This is a truly historic day for rugby in the southern hemisphere, with the first-ever Australian and New Zealand Super Rugby competition,” RA interim CEO Rob Clarke said in a statement.
“This will generate enormous excitement across both countries with some of the best players in the world set to challenge each other after the conclusion of Super Rugby AU and Super Rugby Aotearoa.
“It will be a really exciting new product for our 2021 broadcast partners, Stan and Nine, and I know fans right around the world will be glued to their screens and devices to watch it all.
“The Super Round is also a great initiative with one lucky city to host all 10 teams on one weekend in a Super Rugby extravaganza.
“I’d like to thank Mark Robinson and his team at New Zealand Rugby for working so closely with us. Bring on 2021!”
Former Storm winger Suliasi Vunivalu has reassured his commitment to the Wallabies and Australian rugby after making to move to rugby union.
“I’m really enjoying it right now and I’ve moved on,” he told reporters on Friday.
“I’m just trying to focus on this camp and learning as much as I can, and I’m looking forward to next year with the Queensland Reds.”
Having someone like Marika Koroibete in camp has been perfect for his development according to the two-time premiership winner, with the reigning John Eales Medalist following a similar path in his transition from rugby league.
“He’s probably one of the players I look out for and watch on the game, his urgency and he’s everywhere,” he said.
“He’s been really helpful with me coming in. I’ve been learning heaps of stuff from him because he was in the same place I’m in a couple of years back.”
Whilst many saw his inclusion in the Wallabies set-up as him being fast-tracked into the side, Vunivalu was under no illusion about his standing in the pecking order, admitting that he will need to work hard if he wants to pull on the gold jersey in 2021 and beyond.
“It’s not going to be easy, I have to work hard for that spot or whatever spot they put me in,” he conceded.
“I respect the players that have been here in the camp. I’m in no rush trying to get back in the side.
“I’m just here to learn and get all the basic things right and hopefully I can take that up and use that next year with the Queensland Reds.
This starts with the Reds, with his future teammates making him feel welcome in Wallaby camp.
“We’re pretty much all the same age so they have been really good to me when I met them after the game on Saturday,” he added.
“They’ve been really pumped for me to come over and they’ve said ‘you’ll love it over there’ so I’m really looking forward to my new move to the Reds.”
Miller’s time up
Brumbies flanker Will Miller has made the shock call to hang up the boots after his breakout year with the club.
Miller has always been a standout in the Shute Shield, becoming a cult hero for Norths before he was picked up by the Brumbies in 2020.
He would make an instant impact on the squad, scoring five tries in 15 appearances as he started at openside flanker in the Brumbies Grand Final win against the Queensland Reds.
However, the 27-year-old made the announcement on Friday that he will focus on his family-owned farm in Berry.
“I’ve enjoyed every minute of my time with the Brumbies,” he said.
“This has been an incredibly difficult decision, but it’s one I feel is right for me at this point in my life.
“I always dreamed of playing professional rugby, and to achieve success with the Brumbies last season is something I’ll always look back on fondly.
“I want to thank Dan (McKellar), Chris (Tindall) and Phil (Thomson) for understanding my decision and supporting me throughout.
“I’m proud to be Brumby #224 and I wish my teammates all the best for next season.”
Brumbies coach Dan McKellar was ‘gutted’ by the announcement, however, supported his decision to move closer to his family.
“We’re gutted to lose Will but we’re equally happy for him embarking on the next step in his life,” he added.
“Will’s a man full of character, a country boy to his core, and he was terrific for us last season.
“We’re a family at this club, and with Will feeling like he needs to be closer to home, and to pursue his passion on the farm, we support that one-hundred percent.”