There’s been a huge sea change in Argentinian rugby since the 2011 Rugby World Cup. Most noticeably, in 2012 Los Pumas joined The Rugby Championship, finally joining the test rugby top table after having to make do with the scraps of Autumn and Summer tests for too long. It’s been a bumpy road since then, and the Argentinians had to wait until last year to get their first win in the competition, but there’s little doubt that playing against the Tri-Nations superpowers regularly has lifted the Pumas to higher levels, as evidenced by their away victories over the likes of Wales, France and Italy in recent season.
Argentina’s excellent performances in the last two World Cups were a big reason why they were invited to join The Rugby Championship – they reached the quarters in 2011 and the semis in 2007 and showed a quality that was hard to ignore. After a tough few years slugging it out with the big boys then, the 2015 World Cup is a great opportunity for the Pumas to show that they still belong among the global elite… and they’ll be doing it wearing this beautiful new home shirt from Nike.
Nike has been with Argentina since 2012, and they ruffled a few feathers with the design Los Pumas have been using up to now, primarily thanks to its very unconventional diagonal stripes, not to mention some rather unfortunate ‘puma spot grip’ bollocks on the ribs of the shirt that we’ll try not to mention ever again. This time the designers at Nike have returned to an altogether more traditional horizontal hoops approach – smart.
The diagonal stripes almost became a signifier of the new Argentina, coinciding as they did with their entry into The Rugby Championship in 2012, but we completely understand and agree with the decision to go back to a more traditional look here. It’s a World Cup, after all – a time when most teams want to look back to their heritage and classic designs for inspiration.
And while classic is definitely the watchword here, it doesn’t feel retro in the way that say, the Ireland or Scotland shirts do. Instead we have a fusion of modernity and tradition that really works.
For example, we have the good …’ fashioned horizontal hoops, but they don’t go all the way around the shirt – instead we have large white side panels and a large blue panel that runs the length of the shoulders and sleeves. It not only gives the shirt a more modern feel, but the V-shaped nature of the hooped section will flatter even the most portly front-rower into making him feel like the pack he’s carrying in his midriff is more Six than 24…
Another clash of modern and retro is the now-obligatory grip material. Whereas Argentina made a big deal of this with the Puma spot regretfulness back in 2012, and this year the likes of England are making it a key facet of the design, here it’s been very tastefully and very subtly incorporated into the chest and sleeves with minimal fuss or ornamentation.
The grip tape thing is a real conundrum for shirt designers – it’s got to go on there, but how do you approach it? You can either try to just stick it on and hope nobody notices, while possibly harming the design, or you can try to make it part of the concept, but then run the risk that it will just look weird, as in the case of South Africa’s ‘zombie hands‘ grip panels.
We think that the approach here hits a nice balance between the two – it’s subtle enough to barely be noticed, but when you do, it has a rugged, industrial, no-nonsense vibe that’s entirely appropriate to the way Argentina traditionally play rugby.
A feature of Argentina shirts recently has been a line from the Argentina National Anthem stitched somewhere into the inside of the jersey, namely the refrain ‘Sean eternos los laureles’. This literally means ‘May her laurels be eternal’… we’re assuming it loses something in translation there… and this time around is stitched into the bottom hem of the shirt at the back. A cool, subtle little touch.
World Cups have been where Argentina have traditionally shown their strength, and with a rough few years of stepping up to The Rugby Championship and the first Argentinian Super Rugby team imminent, they’ll be looking to remind everyone why they’re one of test rugby’s elite in England this autumn. Having a home shirt this cool and classy isn’t going to hurt at making an impression, either.
SHIT/GOOD RATING: GOOD