BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) - Argentina's Pumas could have done without the potential damage to their image in their debut season in The Rugby Championship of a financial scandal at the heart of the governing UAR union.
The UAR has revealed a case of fraud perpetrated by two former employees, an accountant and a purchases manager, for a reported sum of two million Argentine pesos ($429,100) in cheques with forged signatures between May 2011 and March 2012.
The Pumas meet Australia on the Gold Coast on Saturday in their fourth appearance in the southern hemisphere's elite tournament after drawing at home to South Africa and losing away to the Springboks and also world champions New Zealand.
"The Argentine Rugby Union's board of directors, through general manager Damian Diaz, has on this date (Wednesday September 12) brought legal charges against two ex employees...for fraudulent administration," the UAR said in a statement.
Manuel Galindo, head of the UAR's high performance centres, said he did not think the scandal would affect the UAR's image with championship organisers Sanzar.
"I am disappointed and angry because this has happened at the most important moment in Argentine rugby with the Pumas playing in The Rugby Championship," Galindo told the state news agency Telam.
"I'm confident this won't affect our image because we acted quickly and seriously," he was quoted as saying in Thursday's sports daily Ole.
Diaz said the fraud has been discovered as the UAR, an amateur organisation, moved to become more professional to meet the demands of playing in a top level international tournament.
"All these changes are being made to support the game, the grass roots and the national team... The UAR is dependable, the Pumas are dependable," he said.
($1 = 4.6612 Argentine pesos)
Reporting by Rex Gowar; Editing by Ken Ferris