Reds coach Brad Thorn says Super Rugby teams should embrace the challenge of playing the Jaguares, who have faced flak for fielding what is essentially the Argentinian national team.
The franchise headed into their clash with the Reds on Saturday defending themselves from calls to be booted out of the competition for having an unfair advantage with so many Pumas in their ranks.
But All Blacks great Thorn said less experienced players could only benefit from facing quality opposition.
“There’s a lot of Test players, but good, bring it on, let’s have a Test match,” he told reporters after the Jaguares proved too good in a 34-23 win.
The Argentinians made a host of changes for the match, but were able to call on an experienced selection of reserve forwards to ensure victory after a tight first half.
“It’s good competition, they can bring some Test players off the bench and we embrace that,” said Thorn.
“Yeah, it had an impact on the game but I like my guys mixing with that. Taste it, embrace it, learn from it and get better from it.
“We want to play them. We weren’t quite ready for them but where we’re going, I don’t want any of those good teams going away.”
The Jaguares, the only team from Argentina in the southern hemisphere tournament, have emerged as a force this year.
They have won seven out of their last eight to top the South African conference by six points with two games to play, keeping them on track for a first-ever home quarter-final in Buenos Aires.
On Friday, coach Gonzalo Quesada described calls for them to be kicked out of Super Rugby as “disappointing” and denied they had an unfair advantage.
It followed Wallabies great Phil Kearns claiming the team was a de facto national side and had “hoodwinked” governing body SANZAAR, giving Argentina an edge by regularly playing together heading into this year’s World Cup.
“We don’t have enough players to have more than one franchise,” said Quesada. “We don’t have the infrastructure or players. We struggle to have a competitive team and that’s the reality.”
Reds captain Samu Kerevi also threw his support behind keeping the Jaguares in Super Rugby.
“You don’t want those type of teams going away, you want to mix it with them. It’s an awesome challenge out there,” he said.
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