Director of Rugby Lachlan Fear shares his unforgettable experience of travelling to South America with the School. During the June–July break, 27 boys from Forms III and IV travelled with five staff to Chile and Argentina.
Landing in Santiago, Chile to begin the tour, the group immediately ventured to the seaport city of Valparaíso, 120 kilometres north-west of Santiago, a city dubbed ‘Little San Francisco’ due to the streetscape similarities; the graffiti culture was of particular interest to the boys.
Settling back in Santiago, our first fixture for the tour was played against Stade Francais.
With the sporting complex in the middle of Santiago and the snow-capped Andes as the backdrop, this was a great first foreign Rugby experience.
The two games played resulted in a win for the Under 15s and a loss for the Under 16s against an extremely physical and possibly older opposition. Following the game, the entire squad was hosted in the clubhouse by Stade Francais in what was to be the beginning of their amazing hospitality, which continued for the entire tour.
Our next stop was Mendoza in Argentina, at the foot of the Andes and the Malbec capital of Argentina. A short and excitingly bumpy flight over the Andes provided great views of the mountains. Boys were billeted in Mendoza with local families who were all extremely excited to be hosting our boys. After a marathon group training session with the opposition and eating far too many empanadas, we played our second fixture against the Los Tordos club. Unfortunately, the final score was not in our favour, but the camaraderie between the Grammar boys and our hosts was evident. The after-match function continued well into the night, teaching each other their language and obviously having a great time.
"...the camaraderie between the Grammar boys and our hosts was evident. The after-match function continued well into the night, teaching each other their language and obviously having a great time.
An airline pilot strike temporarily prevented the group moving onto Buenos Aires, and saw us complemented a night’s stay at the five-star Sheraton Hotel and the opportunity to partake in the extreme activity of zip lining on the Pre-Andes, becoming one of the highlights of the trip.
After finally arriving in Buenos Aires and taking a tour of the city including the La Boca region, the group dinner at Siga La Vaca (‘Follow the Cow’) more than satisfied the protein quota of our diets. A selection of chorizo, morcilla (blood sausage), chinchulines (small intestines), entrana (skirt steak), vacio (flank steak), tira de asado (short ribs) and a salad bar seemed to hit the spot for the boys. Then on to the beautiful town of San Pedro, located two hours north-west of Buenos Aires and situated alongside the Parana River. San Pedro was a highlight for its welcoming community and the asado that followed our third tour fixture, with both our teams victorious against the club side of Tiro Federal.
Following on from San Pedro was our final destination, going back to Buenos Aires to be hosted by St Brendan’s College. From the rural areas of Mendoza and the small town environment of San Pedro, to the exclusivity of the Buenos Aires elite was an interesting contrast to experience. St Brendan’s College was a significant fixture on tour, as Grammar had previously faced this very like-minded school some fifteen years prior. The match enforced our similarities with a close battle, finally going the way of our hosts.
Three long-haul flights for the return journey back to Sydney provided ample opportunity to reflect on their experiences. It was pleasing to hear the boys discuss their favourite moments on tour to be those of being welcomed into communities by families that were often vastly less privileged, but for the common bond of playing rugby (and Google Translate) they made a meaningful and lasting connection.
Gracias América del Sur, para una experiencia inolvidable. Adiós!