Frankie Deges finds out more about the versatile Pumas forward, from heartbreak to highlights
Get to know Argentina star Marcos Kremer
Sometimes it’s easy to forget that Marcos Kremer only recently turned 24. From an early age, he’s had a huge beard, which adds age, and having been first capped at 19, he has been a constant for Argentina for quite some time now. Had Covid-19 not happened, he’d be close to reaching 50 caps.
One of the strongest and most resilient Pumas, he epitomises the mentality that coach Mario Ledesma wants to instil in a squad that last year beat the All Blacks for the first time ever and twice drew with the Wallabies. More recently, they geared up for the 2021 Rugby Championship with an unbeaten European tour.
Kremer has been of similar build since the age of 15, a year after he first played rugby. Currently standing at 6ft 5in and weighing close to 120kg, he had tried football, basketball, handball, swimming… Then came rugby.
“The first time I played I knew that was going to be my sport,” he says of the day he fell in love with the game at Los Espinillos. “I was lucky that I was big and athletic.”
While his huge frame made it easier, Kremer knew he needed to improve to achieve his goal
of being a rugby professional. Spotted – it was impossible to miss him – playing for his province, Entre Ríos, at U18 level, he was soon drafted into the Argentine rugby union’s player development pathways, playing in three U20 World Championships.
“When I got back from the tournament in Manchester in 2016, I was drafted to Jaguares and included in los Pumas, a dream of mine,” he says of his quick ascent to the senior national team on the back of a couple of Super Rugby games.
As debuts go, playing against the All Blacks at 19 was huge for someone who lists Richie McCaw, Ardie Savea and Kieran Read amongst his favourite loose forwards.
The following year, only 20, he was already making his presence felt. Ledesma took over from Daniel Hourcade as Pumas head coach and he became a fan of the flanker – his preferred position – who can also play lock.
“Every player says he wants to be the best,” Ledesma says, “but there is a lot of effort that needs to go into that. Marcos is always giving his best to be the best.
“Constantly leading with his actions, Marcos trains as he plays. So much so that his team-mates complain about how he hits them!”
His determination comes from within and he has had his share of pain. Back in November 2018, his long-term girlfriend died within a month of being diagnosed with leukemia. “A very hard knock, one that will leave a lifetime mark, that tests you to the limit,” he tells Rugby World.
With the support of family, friends and the game, he learnt that “life continues, you have to fight every day to get the best out of it”. He adds: “I now try to enjoy life, feel well, stay happy. You have to live today but you have to plan ahead and move on.”
Another big knock, although more trivial in comparison, was the 2019 Rugby World Cup, when Argentina failed to reach the quarter-finals. The road to RWC redemption in France in 2023 was to begin with Jaguares, who in 2019 had lost in the Super Rugby final against Crusaders. But Covid-19 happened, the world turned upside down, and Kremer departed for Stade Français.
There was still a Rugby Championship – well, a Tri-Nations, given the absence of world champions South Africa – to be played in uncertain times.
“After not playing as a team for a long time, the coaching staff did a great job to keep us ready and involved. And as players, after RWC 2019, we knew we had to come back stronger.”
In doing so they surprised the oval world, beating the All Blacks for the first time in 30 Tests. The 25-15 win was one of Argentina’s finest performances, physically trampling a New Zealand side that could not escape the pressure they were under. Kremer was huge in the game in Sydney.
“Only when I saw 80 minutes did I say, ‘We are winning this one’. We were 12 points ahead and they attacked relentlessly and we stood our ground.”
That, and his debut, are his favourite memories in a Puma jersey. Coupled with the Australia draws, it was their best outcome in nine Rugby Championships. Kremer says: “It was the success of hard work and the ability of a team to adapt to circumstances.”
This year’s Rugby Championship will again test Argentina to the fullest. They lost their opening two matches to South Africa and now face four Tests against the All Blacks and Australia in Queensland.
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“The team has put the bar very high after last year,” says Kremer. “That means that we are quick to adjust and adapt. This year we’ve all played rugby for a season and in Europe we had good energy. We have the mental strength for what lies ahead which, having South Africa back, will make it harder, more enjoyable and interesting.”
This article originally appeared in Rugby World’s September 2021 edition.
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