Argentina vs South Africa: Sporting ties growing stronger
South Africa beat Argentina 27-6 in the teams' opening Castle Rugby Championship match on Saturday 18 August, but this didn't stop Argentinian supporters from having a great time. There were a fair number of them, too – when we arrived at the Danie Craven stand at Newlands stadium an hour before kick-off, a sea of blue-and-white jerseys was already making waves.
Whether they fully understood me or not I’m not sure, but they immediately burst into laughter and invited me to have a photograph taken with them.
To break the ice I joked: 'I hope I'm in the right country here. Do you lads mind if I join you?'
Whether they fully understood me or not I'm not sure, but they immediately burst into laughter and invited me to have a photograph taken with them, before presumably telling me to 'enjoy the game' in Spanish.
Throughout the match they remained in high spirits, and continued friendly banter with Springbok supporters, despite the beating their team was taking on the field. Such sport fans will always be warmly welcomed in South Africa.
Argentina will be visiting South Africa for a rugby Test every year from now, as part of the Castle Rugby Championship. It's a great opportunity for South African rugby fans to watch exciting Argentinian players such as Juan Martin Hernandez, Gonzalo Camacho and Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe.
Tony Leon, South Africa's ambassador to Argentina, said he is encouraged by the number of Argentinians who have visited South Africa in recent years.
'Ever since my arrival here [Argentina] in 2009, and on the back of the hosting by South Africa of the 2010 FIFA World Cup, we have seen a huge rise in tourism flows from here to South Africa.
'Whatever the impact of our own embassy strategies and the pull factor of global events like the football, undoubtedly other hugely consequential factors have been the restoration of thrice weekly South African Airways (SAA) flights since 2008, and the impressive support we receive from South African Tourism (SAT). This has allowed Argentina to be placed as 1 of 5 global watch-list markets."
He added that rugby has played a big role in bringing South Africa and Argentina closer together. 'Suffice to quote the figure that every year over 100 rugby teams (club, school, university and other) cross the South Atlantic in both directions to visit Argentina and South Africa.'
On August 30, Leon's embassy, with the sponsorship of SAA, SAT and the Department of Trade and Industry, will be hosting the impressive Explore South Africa travel expo in Buenos Aires, which features more than 60 tourism exhibitors from South Africa and Argentina. For updates on this, follow Tony Leon on Twitter.
The Springboks and Los Pumas meet in Mendoza on Saturday 25 August for their 2nd match of the Castle Rugby Championship.