IT TAKES a very strong-minded individual to turn his back on playing for his country and strike out in another continent thousands of miles from home, but that’s exactly what Exeter Chiefs’ new wing-man Santiago Cordero decided to do last month when he upped sticks from Buenos Aires.
Capped 33 times by the Pumas, with 12 tries and an excellent showing at the 2015 World Cup to his name, you might have imagined Cordero, who is only 24, would have remained with his Super Rugby franchise, Los Jaguares, and gone on to try and achieve legendary status with the Pumas.
However, it turns out not all is as it seemed and, having found himself on the fringes of national selection during a disappointing 2017, the single-minded Cordero has taken a different path, with Chiefs quick to take advantage by signing the diminutive flyer until the end of this season.
Explaining the reasons behind his move last week, Cordero, who speaks excellent English, told me: “I just wanted a change in my life and a new experience. I was travelling non-stop since 2012, always playing with Argentina and the Jaguares and never settling anywhere.
“Last year I wasn’t playing much for Argentina so I decided to start looking for a place where I can stay for a long time and just concentrate on rugby and being a better player.
“I only started one game for the Pumas in 2017 and came from the bench in two other matches, and then in November I came to Europe but didn’t play at all.
“It was frustrating for me in my head so I decided to try and have a better life, with not the same travelling.
“Of course the Jaguares wanted me to stay in Buenos Aires but I wanted a better quality of life. It’s currently a law that players outside Argentina can’t play for the Pumas, but that’s a risk I had to take and I just want to move on now and grow as a rugby player.”
Cordero sought advice from former Exeter fans favourite Gonzalo Camacho, adding: “Camacho gave me tips that will allow me to adapt more quickly.
“He spoke about how the coaches were great guys and gave me friends to contact for anything I need, so I’m settling quickly and the guys at Exeter have been welcoming and are helping with my English.
“It’s a great place and I’ll look to play now and hope to get a longer contract, but of course that also depends on the coaches and if they want me or not.”
So what can Exeter fans expect from their latest Argentine acquisition? Well, at 5ft 9ins and a tad over 13st he is certainly not the biggest winger out there, but his dazzling footwork and pace came to the fore during last week’s Anglo-Welsh Cup tie against Saracens.
What’s more, his all-time wing hero is the Welsh magician Shane Williams, with Cordero explaining:
“I always watched Shane Williams growing up and liked him a lot. He was similar to me, not too big, but was incredibly tough and scored great tries.
“During the Rugby World Cup in 2015 he was speaking about me and put a video of me on Twitter, so it would be nice to meet him one day.
“I’m still a little shy around the people here but I’m hoping the guys at Exeter will get to know me quickly and I can bring a little bit of my magic.
“I’m not a big guy but I can run and find spaces and think I can make a difference in teams.”
Chiefs’ boss Rob Baxter may have located another gem.