An agreement confirming the participation of Argentina, the only top 10-ranked team that doesn’t feature in an annual tournament, was signed in Auckland recently, South Africa, New Zealand and Australia Rugby, or SANZAR, said in a statement.
“The regular participation of Argentina at a higher level is long overdue and we are excited about their inclusion,” said SANZAR Chief Executive Officer Greg Peters. “The Pumas, as they showed at the recent Rugby World Cup, play an exciting and different brand of rugby to the other three teams, which will definitely add a new dimension.”
Australia, New Zealand and South Africa have faced each other in an annual series since 1996, with the top-ranked All Blacks winning 10 of the 16 editions. The Wallabies won their first Tri-Nations title since 2001 in August by beating New Zealand in the final match.
The 2012 tournament will start Aug. 18 and conclude Oct. 6 with the four teams playing each other home-and-away over 12 matches. Fixtures have been scheduled in two-week blocks with weeklong travel byes in between to “ensure there is adequate recovery time for the teams,” Peters said.
Argentina’s inclusion “ensures a more logical and balanced championship with fixtures and travel evened out across the region,” Jurie Roux, CEO of the South African Rugby Union, said in the statement.
Wait on Venues
While Australia and New Zealand have their venues set for the inaugural edition, locations for the matches in South Africa and Argentina will be confirmed at a later date.
SANZAR said a delegation will travel to Argentina this month to inspect venues and hold talks with the Argentine Rugby Union, host broadcasters and other stakeholders “to ensure the smooth transition from Tri-Nations to The Rugby Championship.”
Argentina, whose top players are typically contracted to European clubs, had been pushing for inclusion in an elite international tournament since finishing third at the 2007 World Cup. The Pumas lost to eventual champion New Zealand last month in the quarterfinals of the 2011 edition.
“Playing in The Rugby Championship makes us really proud and will compel us to work harder at what we are doing,” said Manuel Galindo, the Argentine Rugby Union’s high performance chairman. “We must celebrate being part of this tournament.”
2012 RUGBY CHAMPIONSHIP SCHEDULE ================================ Aug. 18 Australia vs New Zealand ANZ Stadium, Sydney South Africa vs Argentina To Be Confirmed Aug. 25 New Zealand vs Australia Eden Park, Auckland Argentina vs South Africa To Be Confirmed Sept. 1 Travel Bye Sept. 8 Australia vs South Africa Patersons Stadium, Perth New Zealand vs Argentina Westpac Stadium, Wellington Sept. 15 Australia vs Argentina Skilled Park, Gold Coast New Zealand vs South Africa Forsyth Barr Stadium, Dunedin Sept. 22 Travel Bye Sept. 29 South Africa vs Australia To Be Confirmed Argentina vs New Zealand To Be Confirmed Oct. 6 South Africa vs New Zealand To Be Confirmed Argentina vs Australia To Be Confirmed
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