“I think Argentina have been incredibly smart and have hoodwinked the rest of SANZAAR, because they’re going to have a magnificent World Cup team.”
In an interview with the Herald, Quesada made it clear he respected Kearns and his opinion, but disagreed with the assertion that the Jaguares’ introduction into Super Rugby was part of a deliberate plan to strengthen the national side and hijack the competition.
“I admire him and I respect his opinion, and I understand the argument and the reason he’s giving … but I think we have to have a deeper look at the whole picture,” Quesada said. “I was surprised and a bit disappointed by those comments.
“What is disappointing is when he says something like we cheated or we cheated to SANZAAR or there was a strategy. The idea was to get an Argentinian team to be better. We are improving year by year. We are really thankful [to be in Super Rugby]. It’s a bit disappointing.”
The Jaguares are enjoying their best Super Rugby season. They have chalked up eight wins from 13 starts – including a memorable upset victory over the Hurricanes in Wellington two weeks ago – and are sitting on top of the South African conference with a real chance of hosting a quarter-final in Argentina for the first time.
While their excellent form has turned heads, Quesada believes it is a stretch to suggest they have an advantage over other teams.
“If you see the reality of Argentinian rugby we are really still quite behind,” Quesada said. “We have players abroad and we don’t have our best players. We have at least six or seven players who were in under-20s last year that had no experience in Super Rugby or international experience. It’s a developing team and I think it’s a great opportunity for us.
“Australia, South Africa and New Zealand were really generous giving us the opportunity to play this tournament. We don’t have enough players to have more than one franchise. We don’t have the infrastructure or players. We struggle to have a competitive team and that’s the reality.
“I don’t know if Phil’s opinion is shared by other Australians and I would like to know if a lot of people in Australia that feel the same way that the Jaguares shouldn’t be there. It was quite disappointing and while we are performing we are still really far behind.”
Quesada, who took over from Mario Ledesma this season, also made the point that the Waratahs and other Australian franchises weren’t trying to poach Argentinian players for their teams.
“All our players can play for other franchises, but no one calls them,” Quesada said. “No one is trying to steal our players from the southern hemisphere.”
The Jaguares face the Queensland Reds in Brisbane on Saturday.
Tom Decent is a journalist with The Sydney Morning Herald