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'Moan the Pumas!

By Adam Lyal, November 18, 2016 - 6:45pm
Los Pumas at the Witchery Tours shop. L-R: Tomás Cubelli, Ramiro Herrera, Felipe Ezcurra, Matías Alemanno, coaching assistant Jorge Ruarte, Pablo Matera, Lucas Noguera

It's not every day you find eight pumas looking at you across the counter of our little shop, but that's the experience our counter-ghouls had this week when stars of the Argentinian national Rugby Union team (nickname: Los Pumas) arrived to meet my colleague Alexander Clapperton and friends for a tour.

This spooky sporting fixture came about quite by chance: one of our jumper-ooters, Tomás -- himself Argentinian -- visited the team's hotel in hopes of catching a glimpse of his heroes. In the end he got a little more than that, as he was warmly welcomed by the team to join them for drinks, and invited to watch them train the following morning.

While chatting after the training session, Tomás revealed his otherworldly employment; upon which bombshell, it emerged that the players had been intending to take in a Ghost Tour during their stay Of course, it would have been unconscionable to Tomás to have allowed them to experience any but the best!

The team's schedule was already quite hectic, but our resourceful ghouls managed to lure Mr Clapperton (in an incarnation who also speaks Spanish, as luck would have it) out of his usual Winter hibernation period, to perform an out-of-season Ghosts & Gore Tour on Wednesday afternoon. (Or could it be that the fearsome Pumas were uneasy at walking the ghostly streets after dark? No, I'm sure it was just the scheduling thing.)

Los Pumas ready to venture into the night (l-r): Pablo Matera, Lucas Noguera, Tomás Cubelli, Facundo Isa, Alexander Clapperton [guide], The Mad Monk of the Cowgate (aka Tomás) [ghost], Felipe Ezcurra, Jorge Ruarte [coaching assistant], Matías Alemanno, Ramiro Herrera.

This may be the first time a Witchery Tour has been conducted largely in Spanish - although it's hard to translate 19th-century children's verse about Burke & Hare into Spanish, but Mr Clapperton thinks they got the idea anyway. It's all in the delivery.

The Pumas will hopefully be emboldened by their walk on the dark side for their match against Scotland at Murrayfield this Saturday. Although billed as a friendly, the result will have a pivotal bearing on group selection for the next World Cup (so superfan Tomás informs me). Having beaten their French hosts into 4th place at the 2007 World Cup, and boasting the top point-scorer (Nicolas Sanchez) in last year's tournament, there can be no doubt that the Pumas are in it to win it.

Fun fact: you may notice the team's emblem (as seen on their shirts and jackets) looks a bit spotty for a puma. That's because it is in fact a Jaguar. The erroneous naming arose, so I'm told, thanks to a rather confused sports journalist with a pressing print deadline during the team's first international tour, to South Africa in 1965. More established teams of the era, such as the South African "Springboks", had a national animal as their team nickname. The hapless journalist, in his haste, identified two Big Cat species in South America, and picked the wrong one. As this was the team's debut on the international sports media stage, the name stuck (although at least their second team have the privilege of calling themselves, more appositely, Jaguares). Being the figurehead of an organisation often mis-named such gems as The Cadbury's & Witchelly Tools Underground Ghost Train, I entirely sympathise!

I can't guess what tomorrow may bring (if I could, do you think I'd be doing this for a "living"?) but Tomás was tickled to death to have been able to entertain his heroes, and thanks them for coming along. He advises them: "Watch out for the thistles, and good luck Pumas!"

In the interests of plurality, I shall only say that I am quite certain that the true winner tomorrow will be the sport of Rugby Union.