Hugo Porta could be a statistician’s delight. Any fly-half who played international rugby for nearly 20 years, who dropped goals as if they were going out of fashion, and who amassed well over 500 test points, including 66 for South America, would be bound to attract the attention of the men with figures. But Hugo Porta was a lot more than a points’ machine.
Mervyn Davies, arguably the very best of all the No 8’s of the early 1970s, was not a man given to scattering compliments like confetti. In 1977 he put Hugo Porta in his imaginary World XV to oppose Wales. He selected him because even from set-pieces he possessed the ability to make clean breaks... he revealed considerable tactical awareness; and he proved himself a fine kicker of the ball, with an eagle eye for a dropped goal opportunity. Hugo was in fact part of a real-life Argentinian XV that came within seconds of beating a grand slam Welsh team at Cardiff Arms Park in 1976. At the time, Argentina was still regarded as an emerging nation in rugby terms, but he, at least, became attuned to big games on a world stage.
As South Africa sought to counteract its sporting isolation it invited South America to tour there. Hugo Porta captained the Jaguars on three such tours between 1980 and 1984. In 1982 they even won a test match - he scored all 21 points in their victory at Bloemfontein. He also led them in two home tests against the Springboks in 1980. South Africans saw enough of Hugo to describe him as the master of the fly-half’s art.
Hugo Porta’s first allegiance remained, understandably, to the Pumas of Argentina. Though there were many struggles and dark days, there were performances that more illustrious teams would be proud of. An 18-all draw with France in 1977 (Porta 18 points), then victory over the same opponents in 1984 and 1986, wins both home and away against Australia, and, perhaps most noteworthy of all, a 21-all draw (Porta’s 21 points including 3 dropped goals) against New Zealand in 1985. By then, Hugo Porta was in every sense a world class player.