SANZAAR and Rugby Australia have apologised to Argentina for an “error” that led to a photo of the Rugby Championship captains, minus Pumas skipper Julian Montoya, being taken in Townsville last week.
RA and SANZAAR officials had for the past fortnight been trying to coordinate a picture of all four captains to help promote the tournament and boost tickets sales for the closing two weeks in Townsville and the Gold Coast.
When attempts to get the Pumas involved in the opportunity by the water in Townsville on Friday fell through, the photo session went ahead anyway, prompting a furious reaction from coach Mario Ledesma on Saturday night.
While it wasn’t a good look, an RA official had already indicated to ESPN that the photo of Michael Hooper, Siya Kolisi and Ardie Savea standing alongside the Rugby Championship trophy should never have gone ahead.
Instead, only two of the captains were to be photographed together by the trophy, a fact SANZAAR confirmed on Monday.
“SANZAAR and Rugby Australia management would like to apologise to Argentina Rugby for the error that led to a photograph being published in the media that misrepresented The Rugby Championship in that it omitted Argentina,” a SANZAAR statement read.
“A promotional photograph featuring the captains of Argentina, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa had been planned for the tournament once all matches had been rescheduled to be played in Queensland. A photo session was organised for the day before the Round 5 matches in Townsville on Friday 24 September. Unfortunately, a late travel change then meant that the Argentina captain could not make the designated time for the photo session.
“It was determined that the photo session would proceed so that a photo of the New Zealand and South African captains could be taken to promote the historic 100th match between the two countries. Furthermore, the Australian captain would be photographed in the First Nations jersey that the Australian team would wear in the match for local promotion. These photographs were taken and utilised by the media from the respective countries.
“However, during the photo session a communications breakdown led to a photograph being taken of the three attending captains with the trophy, minus the absent Argentina captain. SANZAAR and Rugby Australia take full responsibility for this error and acknowledge that it should not have happened and fully understands Argentina Rugby’s disappointment over this matter after the image appeared in the media.”
Ledesma had on Saturday night used a portion of his post-match media conference following Argentina’s 27-8 loss to the Wallabies to slam the photo, the former Test prop saying Los Pumas had been “disrespected”.
Pointing to his team’s long stints of quarantine and arduous travel schedule, not just this year but also for the Tri Nations of 2020, so too the fact that the Pumas hadn’t played at home in two years, Ledesma also said the photo had completely disregarded rugby’s “values”.
With the tournament to come to a close this weekend on the Gold Coast, SANZAAR has moved swiftly to ensure the gloss isn’t taken off what has otherwise been a successful venture into Queensland over the past month.
“SANZAAR would like to publicly state that no disrespect was intended and indeed would like to thank Argentina Rugby for its unselfish and committed contribution to The Rugby Championship, highlighted by the fact that it has played all matches away from home over the last two years,” the statement concluded.
The Pumas wrap up their campaign against the Wallabies at Cbus Super Stadium, with the second Test between the Springboks and All Blacks to follow.