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Where Does The Pumas’ Nickname Come From? | Rafaela

If you wonder why Argentina’s rugby union team is called the Pumas but features a jaguar on the emblem, you’re not alone. Here’s how it happened.

Lunes, 25 de Mayo de 2020 | 14:41 (actualizado a las 14:41)
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How The Pumas Got Their Name

Ever wondered why Argentina’s rugby union team is nicknamed “the Pumas”? It seems especially odd, when considering that the cat featured on the UAR emblem is not a puma, but a jaguar.

And although pumas can be found throughout the Americas, the jaguar is identified much more strongly with South America, probably because its range never extended as far into North America as the puma’s did.

It’s an interesting story, related to Argentina’s first tour that gained the side international recognition in the 1960s. Here is how it happened.

Rugby In Argentina

The extensive British commercial presencein Argentina began in the 19th Century, after Britain recognized the nation’s independence from Spain in 1823. By the 1870s, so many British businesses had operations in Buenos Aires that expatriate sports clubs were springing up. Thus rugby was introduced to the nation, and Argentinians took to it enthusiastically.

As with the Afrikaners in South Africa, there was an element of colonial niggle involved: a way to exact some physical revenge on the British nabobs who ruled the roost commercially. The first matches were played in 1874, and by the time the River Plate Rugby Union was formed in 1899, the sport was as popular with many Argentinians as it was with the British who brought it. The RPRU would eventually become the UAR.

Tour Of Southern Africa

Although popular like online Bingo NZis with certain people, rugby could not compete with soccer, so it remained something of a niche sport for decades. The Argentinian national side, known to home supporters as “the yaguareté” because of the jaguar on the emblem, played its first international match against a British Lions touring side in 1910.

But it wasn’t until 1965 that a UAR side first toured overseas: to South Africa, South West Africa, now called Namibia, and Southern Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe. They started in what was then Salisbury, now Harare, where they lost 17-12 to the Rhodesians. The second match, against legendary South African provincial side Northern Transvaal, was also a painful 25-13 loss.

But then the Argentinians went on a winning spree, triumphing in 11 of the remaining 14 matches and holding out for one draw. Their most important match was an 11-6 win against the Junior Springboks, South Africa’s second-tier national side, which the UAR still regards as its first test victory.

Journalist’s Guess Sticks

It was while describing this thrilling match that a journalist for Afrikaans newspaper Die Transvaler, Carl Kohler, wanted to come up with a tough, predatory nicknamefor the rampant Argentinian team. In the days before the internet, and with no encyclopedia available at the rugby stadium, Kohler noticed the spotted cat on the UAR emblem and had to guess whether it was a puma or a jaguar.

He guessed wrong, and the rest is history. The jaguars returned home as “the Pumas”, and Argentina’s rugby fans decided they preferred the new nickname. Fans of the spotted jungle cat had to wait for Super Rugby, and a team founded in Buenos Aires in 2015, before they could once again cheer for the jaguars.


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