THE Southern Kings might be packed with flamboyant Argentine rugby stars when they face the Western Force in their opening Super Rugby match in Port Elizabeth on February 23.
At least five Pumas have been linked to the Kings as they bid to beef up their team, with a budget of R40-million set aside for player recruitment.
The Pumas players who could be in line for a move to the Kings are Manuel Carizza (lock), Eusebio Guinazu (front row), Tomas Cubelli (scrumhalf), Manuel Montero (wing) and Tomas de la Vega (flank).
Though EP president Cheeky Watson has admitted they are talking to Argentine players, he has not revealed their names.
"We are looking far and wide to bolster our team and that includes overseas players," Watson said.
While European rugby teams are filled with international players, southern hemisphere opportunities for foreigners to play professional rugby have been rare until the inclusion of the Kings.
Reports in Argentina have welcomed the inclusion of the Kings as up until now only a few Argentines have played Super Rugby.
Juan Martin Hernandez linked up briefly with the Sharks and Guinazu made a few bench appearances for the Stormers. Federico Mendez had a successful stint with the Sharks and Patricio Noriega played for the Waratahs.
The news that some Argentines may get a chance to play Super Rugby is a huge boost to that region, as the Super Rugby season fits in with the Pumas' new international schedule.
A few Pumas have lost their European contracts as a result, and this could be an opportunity to remain playing at a high level for them.
Players the Kings might be looking at signing are:
- Manuel Carizza (27 caps): The lock has done well so far in the Four Nations and been a reliable figure in the pack. He was released by Biarritz at the end of last season due to him deciding to play for the Pumas. Despite being linked to a few sides, he has failed to find a club for the new season;
- Eusebio Guinazu (22 caps): The versatile front row player has previous experience of South Africa with the Stormers. He is available after also being released by Biarritz;
- Tomas Cubelli (10 caps): He may not be the preferred choice at scrumhalf but he was one of the standouts in the Pampas XV's Vodacom Cup campaign this year. Two other scrum- halves also available are Agustin Figuerola and Martin Landajo;
- Manuel Montero (six caps): The burly winger is the youngest member of the Pumas' Four Nations squad; and
- Tomas de la Vega (five caps): The flanker could be another player the Kings might look at.