Pass the Salta: A look at the Wallabies' next stop in Argentina

The Rugby Championship
Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

Don’t know much about the Wallabies’ next Test venue, Salta? You’re not alone.

Most of the Wallabies players have scarce knowledge of the northern Argentinian town where they will play a Test for the first time on Sunday morning (AEDT).

The Pumas have only hosted six Tests in Salta, playing Italy, England twice and South Africa three times dating back to 2009.

Of those six Tests they have won three, with their most recent win a 26-24 victory over South Africa in 2016.

Argentina also beat England in Salta back in 2009, in just their second Test in the area.

The closest Australia has had to a Test in Salta was a tour match in 1979 but Michael Cheika has visited the city, taking a Waratahs squad at the end of the 2013 season, that went down to the Pumas 58-12.

Lock Adam Coleman joked he would have to do some Wikipedia cramming on the town before arriving there this week, with little idea what to expect.

“I think I’ve got to hit up Wikipedia tonight. I’ve got no idea what it’s like,” he laughed.

“It’s exciting. It’s always great to play in a different country, somewhere you haven’t played before.

“The guys are really loving being here in Argentina, it’s a great country and looking forward to playing on the weekend.”

Located in Argentina’s north-west, Salta sits at the foot of the one of the world’s longest mountain ranges, the Andes.

Its wider province is often referred to as ‘Salta la linda’ or Salta the beautiful, because of its picturesque surroundings.

With a population of roughly half a million, Salta is far removed from the hectic Buenos Aires and strikingly different to many of the cities further south, likened more to Spanish cities.

It’s an historic city, known more so for its array of spectacular architecture and a museum that holds a number of Inca arfefacts, is part of the second-largest wine region in Argentina and also lays claim to some of the country's best empanadas.

While the Wallabies won’t be on the hunt for a Malbec this week, there are some other elements of Salta that may yet play a part in their success or failure on Sunday morning (AEST).

Elevated 1152m above sea level, Salta’s altitude could potentially play a factor but how much remains to be seen.

It's elevation is not nearly as high as Johannesburg, for example, which sits at 1703m above sea level. 

Salta sits in a zone where scientists say altitude begins to have a limited effect on athletic performance, via reduced oxygen levels.

Altitiude has not been a friend to Australia in recent years, at Test or Super Rugby level but it is a factor the Wallabies have barely spoken of this week, adamant it will make little difference to the team.

The Wallabies travelled to Salta on Thursday after preparing in Buenos Aires.

The Pumas have spent the week in the city but after a marathon journey from South Africa already reduced their training time by a day, the Wallabies opted to split their time in Argentina.

On Monday Matt Toomua admitted he didn’t know the city was even at altitude but dismissed the suggestion it would be a concern.

"We've all had a bit of experience at altitude. I actually didn't know Salta was at altitude, to be honest with you, until you told me then,” he said.

Coleman said the Wallabies needed to be ready to combat the fact they’ll hit their wall earlier in the match than usual.

“You’ve obviously got fatigue a bit earlier with the high altitude, so making sure that your mindset, you’re still ticking the boxes, still going through the processes,’ he said.

“I know it might sound cliché but you’ve really got to stay in the moment and not worry about how you can control how much oxygen is in the air.”

The Wallabies take on the Pumas in Salta on Sunday October 7 AEDT, kicking off at 9:40am, LIVE on FOX SPORTS and via Channel Ten.