JON CARDINELLI looks ahead to the Super Rugby quarter-final in Johannesburg on Saturday.
LIONS vs JAGUARES, Johannesburg, Saturday, 3:05pm
Under new coach Mario Ledesma, the Jaguares have played with more intent and balance in 2018. They fully deserve to be in the final eight.
It’s hard to know what to expect from the Jaguares in their first-ever playoff appearance, though. Some might say that they are well placed, as they have spent the last two weeks in South Africa, and will face a short flight to Johannesburg rather than a long journey to Australasia as a result.
The fact remains, however, that they have never beaten the Lions at Ellis Park.
The Lions have regressed since 2017. While they have continued to score tries – many of those via their impressive maul – their defence has cost them at key stages. Their record during the conference stage – nine wins and seven losses – serves to highlight their struggle for consistency.
That said, they have been without several key players, such as Warren Whiteley and Malcolm Marx, for much of the campaign. Now that Whiteley and Marx are back, and given that two or even three of the playoffs could be staged in Johannesburg, the Lions have reason to believe that they can go all the way.
It will be interesting to see if they continue to back their lineout. The Lions have banked the most lineout wins to date, and have the top lineout forward in Franco Mostert. The Jaguares, however, are ranked fourth in the competition for lineout steals, and boast the best poacher in this regard, namely lock Guido Petti.
Not much should be read into the Jaguares’ recent loss to the Sharks. A host of key players were rested for that clash. The Argentinian side will be at full strength when they tackle the Lions at Ellis Park.
Can the Jaguares go the distance in a contest against an attack-minded team like the Lions on the highveld?
No side has scored more tries than the Lions in the final 20 minutes of matches played this season (the Crusaders and Lions have scored 23 apiece in the final quarter). The Jaguares should be wary of going toe-to-toe with the Lions in a free-running kind of game.
The Lions, of course, should look to speed the contest up at every opportunity. If they can build an early lead, and force the Jaguares to chase the game as a result, they will win this quarter-final by a comfortable margin.
Stats and facts
- Each of the last six games between the Lions and Jaguares has been won by the home team, with the ledger split at three wins apiece.
- The Lions have won four of their previous five playoff games on home turf, scoring 40-plus points on three occasions in that time.
- The Jaguares have lost their last eight games in succession in South Africa, but have won four of their last six away games overall.
- The Lions (27) and Jaguares (26) have beaten more defenders per game than any other team this campaign.
- Javier Ortega Desio has made an average gain of 4.6m per carry this season, the second most of any forward to have made a total of at least 100 carries.
Lions – 15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Ruan Combrinck, 13 Lionel Mapoe, 12 Harold Vorster, 11 Aphiwe Dyantyi, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Ross Cronjé, 8 Warren Whiteley (c), 7 Cyle Brink, 6 Kwagga Smith, 5 Franco Mostert, 4 Marvin Orie, 3 Ruan Dreyer, 2 Malcolm Marx, 1 Jacques van Rooyen.
Subs: 16 Corne Fourie, 17 Dylan Smith, 18 Johannes Jonker, 19 Lourens Erasmus, 20 Marnus Schoeman, 21 Dillon Smit 22 Courtnall Skosan, 23 Howard Mnisi.
Jaguares – 15 Emiliano Boffelli, 14 Bautista Delguy, 13 Matias Orlando, 12 Jeronimo de la Fuente, 11 Matias Moroni, 10 Nicolas Sanchez, 9 Gonzalo Bertranou, 8 Javier Ortega Desio, 7 Tomas Lezana, 6 Pablo Matera (c), 5 Marcos Kremer 4 Guido Petti, 3 Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro, 2 Agustin Creevy, 1 Santiago Garcia Botta.
Subs: 16 Julian Montoya, 17 Juan Pablo Zeiss, 18 Santiago Medrano, 19 Matias Alemanno, 20 Tomas Lavanini, 21 Juan Manuel Leguizamón, 22 Martin Landajo, 23 Sebastian Cancelliere.
Photo: Gavin Barker/BackpagePix