Argentina’s new captain Agustín Creevy has finally secured the No 2 jersey, writes FRANKIE DEGES.
Those who know Pumas coach Daniel Hourcade were quite certain he would choose Agustín Creevy as his new captain. The 29-year-old was finally appointed in late June and will lead Argentina into next year’s World Cup.
Hourcade took a big gamble in stripping one of the world’s finest loose forwards, Juan Martín Fernández Lobbe, of the captaincy. The coach met with the Toulon star in February to explain the decision, and Fernández Lobbe has since pledged his support to Creevy. In fact, Creevy’s first phone call after being offered the captaincy was to Fernández Lobbe.
Hourcade and Creevy have a strong relationship, dating back to 2010 when the Pampas XV first played in the Vodacom Cup. The coach worked closely with his captain to develop a team unity and spirit that saw them qualify for the quarter-finals in their first season and win the tournament in their second.
By then Creevy was no longer the captain, having been asked to focus on the looming World Cup, but remained a leader of a team that would produce more than 15 full internationals.
Creevy first came to prominence in La Plata as a pocket-dynamo loose forward in the David Pocock mould. His strength and speed saw him win Test honours against Japan a couple of months before starring in the 2005 U21 World Championship in Mendoza. A second Test cap came four months later against Samoa.
Creevy moved to Biarritz but limited game time hampered his international ambitions. After being told he might not have a future with Los Pumas unless he moved to hooker, and not wanting to be a two-cap wonder, he returned home.
‘It was a huge decision, but one I’ve never regretted,’ he says.
It took Creevy time to adjust to the position and he was behind Mario Ledesma, who finally retired at the end of the 2011 World Cup.
Creevy worked hard, went on two Vodacom Cup safaris and when the call came to return to professional rugby, it was at hooker. Having played six games in two seasons at Biarritz, he would start 43 games in two seasons for Clermont.
With Ledesma gone, Creevy was the heir apparent, but when he broke a rib days before flying to Cape Town for his Los Pumas debut in the Rugby Championship, he lost his starting place.
Eusebio Guiñazú, another well-travelled Mendoza front rower, took ownership of the No 2 jersey and Creevy, again, had to warm the bench. In 2012 and 2013, he played in nine of the Pumas’ 12 Rugby Championship matches, but only started once. Another injury then delayed his debut for Worcester, in England’s Premiership, last season.
‘Things happen for a reason and maybe it wasn’t my time,’ says Creevy, who was delighted when offered the captaincy. ‘It is a huge honour and I only hope to be of good service to my team.’
Los Pumas once again spent their pre-season in Pensacola, Florida, where for two weeks they worked hard on their fitness. After their annus horribilis in 2013, they also focused on building team unity.
‘Going to Pensacola is always good for us in so many ways,’ says Creevy. ‘I enjoyed the support of the senior players and we worked on being strong on and off the field.’
He hopes to lead from the front and is ready to silence his critics.
‘People have the right to think what they want. I will take the well-intentioned criticism but won’t accept it from those who are disrespectful.’
Broad shoulders and five seasons at hooker mean Creevy is able to take on the double challenge of starting in the Rugby Championship and leading his troops.
‘Attitude will not be a problem,’ he says. ‘We need to play to the best of our collective ability against the top three teams in the world.’
– This article first appeared in the September 2014 issue of SA Rugby magazine