Jaguares hold key for SA Conference

    2018-05-15 19:57

    Brenden Nel - SuperSport

    Johannesburg - The bun-fight for the top of the South African Conference looks certain to be determined not only by the Lions form over the next four league games, but also, and probably more importantly, by the Argentinean side, the Jaguares.

    The Jaguares may have started their Super Rugby campaign slowly, but a string of away results - including shock wins over the Chiefs and Blues - and three wins against Australian sides have placed them second in the SA Conference at the moment as the going gets extremely tight going into the next few weeks of the competition, according to the website.

    With the Bulls set to face the Jaguares in the first of two tough encounters late on Saturday (kick-off 23:40 SA time), and the Jaguares still to face the Stormers and Sharks (twice), the Buenos Aires-based team will hold the key to the SA Conference and if anyone can catch the Lions in the next few weeks.

    But they have more than enough momentum now, and the prospect of facing South African sides who have generally struggled in Argentina, to give themselves a chance to catch the Lions and shock the South African franchises in the Super Rugby competition.

    The Jaguares’ turnaround this season has been nothing short of spectacular, especially after they lost their opening three games to the Stormers, Lions and Hurricanes before getting their first win against the Waratahs in Round 4 of the competition.

    Losses against the Crusaders and Reds at home seemed to destine them for a low-key tournament but their win over the Lions, followed by a tour where they shocked the Rebels in Melbourne, then followed it up with a win over the Brumbies before two massive wins in New Zealand to return home unbeaten on their four week journey has suddenly catapulted them into contention for the franchise title.

    This weekend’s clash against the Bulls looms large for both sides, not only as they are level on points in the second place of the SA Conference along with the Sharks, but also because the Bulls have never won in Buenos Aires in Super Rugby, losing their only game in the Argentine capital badly two years ago.

    It is also the first of three consecutive home matches for the Jaguares - with the Sharks and Stormers - both of whom struggled to win in the last two years in Argentina as three games that will settle the Jaguares’ playoff hopes, as well as have a major bearing on the SA Conference standings.

    Their final two games of the competition are against the Bulls and Sharks in Pretoria and Durban, respectively, as the Jaguares prepare for an all-out South African assault over the next five weeks to give themselves momentum for the coming international season.

    Interestingly the key to their success has been their determination and offload play, while their scrum has suffered, something they have been traditionally good for.

    SANZAAR’s official stats see the Jaguares at the bottom of the scrum success rate, just below the Bulls on 85% success rate and two places below the Sunwolves, showing how the new scrumming laws have adversely affected the Argentine side.

    The other key to their success has been limiting their normally poor foul play record, with just four yellow cards this season, and many of those in the opening rounds, the Jaguares have tightened up on discipline and it has helped them immensely as they have surged ahead on their points log.

    And to top it all off centre/wing Emiliano Boffelli has been a try-scoring sensation, with nine tries this season, making him the second highest try-scorer on the competition log and a key figure for the Argentinean side.

    All in all the Jaguares pose a bigger danger for SA franchises in the coming weeks than they would have expected at the beginning of the season.

    But they are a challenge that they will need to overcome, as they join the South Americans in chasing for the elusive playoff spots, if they don’t want their season to end early.

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