Of the various forms of rugby, one that has grown in the last three years in Argentina is Rugby X-treme.
Combining the beauty of the Andes mountain ranges and its winter resorts, this brand of rugby is played on snow and in unforgiving, or extreme, conditions.
Rugby X-treme started quietly in 2005 at the Cerro Bayo Ski Resort of Villa La Angostura but the growth has been so notable that during the 2008 winter season two tournaments have already been played and four more resorts are bracing themselves for their own Rugby X-treme events.
The game uses rugby sevens laws but the field size depends on the terrain. Added to that, the mountain nature of the sport means that the field is seldom flat and all the action is played out at altitude so the thin air adds to the extreme nature.
“We started it with the idea of combining two things we love, rugby and skiing or snowboarding,” explains Demián García Ríos, who runs Rugby X-treme. "We have been surprised with how many players are desperate to come and play in our tournaments.”
Snow Patrol: Puma support
The circuit of tournaments has been supported over the years by a number of internationals. IRB Sevens World Series all time leading try scorer Santiago Gómez Cora was player of the tournament when it was first played in 2005 and Marcelo Bosch shone in 2006 before moving to Biarritz Olympique in France and becoming an international. In that same tournament in Cerro Bayo, Juan Martín Fernández Lobbe confirmed what an asset he would be for the Sale Sharks, where he took up a contract soon after. Of the current crop of internationals, Alejandro Campos was a tournament winner in 2006, beating former Puma Diego Albanese’s team in the final.
Former Puma Serafín Dengra is also a regular Rugby X-tremer. Despite having played no competitive rugby for more than 15 years, he has played in a few of these tournaments and was this year at the season starter in Cerro Castor, the world's southernmost ski resort some 30 miles from Ushuaia.
A prop's prerogative
“It is a wonderful experience and one that I totally recommend," laughed Dengra, a prop for the Pumas between 1982 and 1989. "You combine the fun and friendship of rugby with the experience of playing in extreme conditions and the weekend involves skiing. What else can you ask for?
"Well, I did ask the players to respect me and don’t tackle me," he added, displaying the fact that he had played in shorts despite the freezing conditions.
This season will consist of six tournaments, two of which have already been played. In Cerro Castor (Ushuaia), team Movistar captained by Crego Bonhomme, a standout player in the URBA championship, took the Aerolíneas Argentinas Cup beating Serafin Dengra’s team Terra 15-10 in the final.
The second tournament was held in Caviahue, Neuquén. Team Aeropuertos Argentinos 2000 took the trophy of the same name much to the delight of captain Matías Casanova, a regular at the CASI club.
“We need support as winter sports are expensive and involve travelling long distances, but they understand that we are here to continue the tradition of rugby and ensure we all have an enjoyable weekend whilst also promoting our superb ski resorts,” added García Ríos.
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