Welcome to Ruck U!
Ruck U is a column where I write about some of the legendary tales that helped to make the game of rugby so great.
This is an exciting week for rugby fans as February 15th marks the beginning of the Super Rugby season. Super Rugby is the best rugby competition in the world and consists of 15 teams in New Zealand, South Africa, Australia, Japan, and Argentina. The talent pool is heavily populated by All Blacks, Springboks, and Wallabies and brings an exciting brand of rugby that the Southern Hemisphere is known for. It is absolutely worth waking up at 3am for!
OK...maybe the idea of waking up at 3am on Saturdays every week doesn’t appeal to everyone. If that’s the case, the team you may be interested in following is Jaguares. Jaguares are located in Buenos Aires, Argentina and as a result, play their home games in a much friendlier timezone. Jaguares features many players from Los Pumas, the Argentine national team. In fact, the rosters are identical. Jaguares and Los Pumas share more than a roster. They also share a history and one of the best inside jokes of all time. This is what brings us to our lesson for today; what’s the difference between a Jaguar and a Puma?
The history of the Argentina Rugby Union (UAR) dates back to 1910 when they took on a touring side that would later become known as the British & Irish Lions. Initially, they played their international matches in either a solid blue or solid white kit. This lasted up until 1927 when they introduced their now famous light blue and white striped kit. Once again they debuted the new kit in a match with the British & Irish Lions. In 1941 they added a badge to the jersey for the first time. That badge depicted an image of a Jaguar.
Current Los Puma Badge (Source: uar.com.ar)
In 1965, UAR embarked on a tour of Rhodesia (modern-day Zimbabwe) and South Africa. As with any sporting event, local media began to cover the Argentine tour. One of these journalists was Carl Kohler. In an attempt to draw up local interest for the tour Kohler felt that the Argentines needed a nickname. In the southern hemisphere, many of the national rugby teams go by a famous nickname such as the All Blacks, Wallabies, Springboks, Manu Samoa, and Ikale Tahi. Kohler decided to take it upon himself to come up with the nickname and looked to the badge on Argentina’s jersey for inspiration.
Nike recreation of the 1965 jersey and badge made to honor the 50th anniversary of Argentina’s historic tour. (Source: rugbyshirtwatch.com)
Pumas and Jaguars are both large cats that are native to South America. The biggest difference between them is that Jaguars have spots and pumas do not. Unfortunately, Kohler did not have access to Google in 1965. He was aware that Argentina had both Pumas and Jaguars so he knew it was one of the two. With a deadline looming (and presumably no way to find out) he decided to guess and dubbed the team “the Pumas”. Now, to be fair to Kohler, if you look at the badge in the above picture, the cat does not appear to actually have spots. However, that detail makes the story less fun. Los Pumas went on to have a famous victory over the Junior Springboks in their lone test match of the 1965 tour. Ultimately, Los Pumas went 11-4-1 on their tour. Despite Kohler’s error, the on-field success of the tour helped the name stick and Argentina’s national rugby team has been known as Los Pumas since. The badge remains a Jaguar to this day.
Fast forward 50 years and Super Rugby announced plans to expand the competition beyond New Zealand, Australia, and South Africa. Super Rugby announced that two new teams that would begin playing in the 2016 season. One team would be in Japan and the other in Argentina. The Japanese team would be known as the Sunwolves. The Argentine team looked to history for creative and cheeky team identity. The day came to unveil the new name and logo for Argentina’s first Super Rugby team. The team would be known as Jaguares and the logo…
Was a puma.
Carl Kohler’s mistake had already become one of the best team name origins in sports and now Jaguares breathed new life into that fun story. The Jaguares name and logo was met with plenty of smiles and laughs as rugby fans clued into what exactly the Jaguares did. The Argentine national rugby team was Los Pumas with a Jaguar logo and their best club team was Jaguares with a Puma logo. It was an incredibly fun (not so) inside joke that paid homage to an integral piece of Argentine rugby history as well as being a fresh idea.
Unfortunately, I regret to inform you that one of rugby’s best jokes has come to an end. When Jaguares take on the Lions to open their 2019 Super Rugby campaign on Saturday they will step onto the pitch with a new kit and a new logo. The new Jaguares logo is sadly a Jaguar.
Although it is technically correct it is significantly less fun. The story behind the original name and logo was great. It not only played off one of rugby’s famous stories, but it also added to the legacy. Of course, the legacy of Carl Kohler’s error still lives on. 54 years later, Los Pumas is one of the most famous nicknames in all of rugby. That fame is in large part due to the story associated with it. Perhaps it would have never reached this level of popularity if Kohler correctly identified the Jaguar on the jersey of the touring Argentines.