This weekend General San Martin Park will play host to what will be Argentina’s maiden home match of The Investec Rugby Championship, an event which will perhaps surpass the local hosting of Brazil back during that famous trophy win thirty-four years ago.
Close to 50,000 will be on hand to play witness to the Pumas run out, hosting the Springboks, who won 27-6 in the first round of The Rugby Championship.
This time the beautiful city of Mendoza, so close to the magnificent Andes plays host, and while rugby is the focus, the fans may break away from tradition, that is consuming beer at the match, to enjoying local vino, as the region is the largest wine producer in Latin America, and is famous for vintages that brings many far and wide as part of a thriving tourism trade.
The beauty of Argentina’s first match here is backed by its location, with the stadium located within the former ‘Parque del Oeste’ a near 1000 acre park with sculptures, a zoo and other picturesque aspects that encapsulate why famous conquistador Pedro del Castillo founded the city of Mendoza in 1561.
Some would regard the powerbases of rugby in Argentina to be Buenos Aires, Rosario and of late Cordoba (while Tucuman have been competitive in recent years) – but De Cuyo and Teque clubs and others are notable rugby institutions in the Mendoza region.
Secretary of Sports for the province of Mendoza, Marcelo Locamuz said that preparations have been intense for arguably the most important sporting event the region has seen.
(Translated to English) “We are working on final details…so that all can enjoy Mendoza on August 25, an unforgettable day for our sport provincial. We expect the presence of all!”
Mendoza, well ingrained into the Argentine consciousness after the 1861 Earthquake, was hit by another major shake in 2006, which prompted landmark restructuring of the city, while the match is being played in the west as a deliberate effort to ensure that the Pumas can be celebrated all throughout the country.
Mendoza is some 1,000km from Buenos Aires (a two hour flight pending on conditions), while La Plata and Rosario will round out what UAR President Luis Castillo said will be a mammoth season for his team.
Already they have hosted Italy and France, and the Springboks are the first of the original Tri-Nations powers to arrive in Pumas territory.
“(The year is) an unprecedented one for rugby in Argentina, with the Pumas playing a total of 12 matches, including six at home, against the strongest nations in the world,” Castillo said.
It is not the first time Mendoza has welcomed international rugby opposition, playing Italy in 2007 and recording a 24-6 victory, while great local rivals Chile lost 57-13 here in 2002.
Springboks captain Jean de Villiers, alongside Bryan Habana, is one of just two South Africans to have played in Argentina, with the two involved in a thrilling 34-23 win for the tourists at Velez Sarsfield, where the Pumas scored the same number (three) of tries as the illustrious visitors.
De Villiers and the Springboks had touched down inArgentina, in Buenos Aires before heading west to Mendoza, and were wary about a passionate response from the home side.
"The travel has been good, we got some sleep on the flight and we're happy to be here in Argentina," he said.
"It will be the Pumas' first game in this new competition at home, so they will be out to prove a point. We know it will betough and they will be emotionally and mentally up for it, so we will be prepared for massive battle on Saturday."
SANZAR CEO Greg Peters said Mendoza was an ideal location for Argentina’s home debut.
“With the wonderful Andes as a dramatic backdrop, the Estadio Malvinas Argentinas will have its name etched in history as they host the Springboks,” Peters said.
“This great occasion, the Pumas first home match ofThe Rugby Championship, is one to be celebrated by not just the Argentineans but indeed the whole global rugby community.”