Juan Martín Hernández (Argentina)
World Rugby Hall of Fame – Inductee No.165
“El Mago” or the “The Magician” was a once-in-a-generation player with a brilliant all-round skillset who made the game looked effortless.
Juan Martín Hernández’s performances for Los Pumas over a remarkable 14-year period were as eye-catching as the result on his debut in 2003 – a record 144-0 win against Paraguay.
Capable of making a big impact in a number of different positions, Hernández started his test career as a full-back and played the majority of his early games with the number 15 on his back.
However, it was when he moved to fly-half on the eve of Rugby World Cup 2007 that Hernández really started to grab everyone’s attention.
The man from Buenos Aires had only started one test in the pivotal position prior to that tournament. But his game-controlling influence and craftmanship really shone through as a 10 in France, where he also played a starring role for his club side, Stade Français.
With Hernández the fulcrum of a 9-10-12 axis involving Agustín Pichot and Felipe Contepomi, Argentina upset the host nation in the opening match and went on to beat them again, to finish third and achieve their highest position at a Rugby World Cup.
His sleight of hand and trickery with the boot was a recurring theme throughout the tournament and won him a nomination for the World Rugby Men’s Player of the Year.
Injury deprived Hernández of the opportunity of playing at Rugby World Cup 2011 but he appeared in his third tournament in England in 2015, mainly as a centre, where Argentina stormed into the semi-finals again with a record win against Ireland in Cardiff.
By that stage of his career, Hernández was playing for Toulon, his third club in France, having also played for Stade’s Paris rivals, Racing 92.
He continued playing international rugby until he was 35, retiring in 2017 after 74 tests.