The Jaguares ensured they will top the South African conference with a 34-7 victory over the Sharks in Buenos Aires on Saturday. DYLAN JACK reports.
The victory puts the Argentinians into an unassailable position in the conference on 46 points, allowing them to deservedly top the South African standings for the first time in their history.
The Jaguares deserve plenty of plaudits for their performances this season and have looked a changed side from the ill-disciplined one of previous years. They will definitely prove more than a match for any team in Buenos Aires.
The Sharks are certainly not out of the playoff race, but will need to put together an all-round improved performance against the Stormers at Newlands next weekend, while hoping results go their way.
While not as bad as 51-17 thrashing they took from the same opponents at Kings Park earlier this season, the Sharks were certainly nowhere near their best in Buenos Aires. They seemed to be caught off-guard by the rush defence employed by their opponents and struggled to gain momentum throughout the match.
The much-debated decision to start Rob du Preez at flyhalf ahead of Curwin Bosch will rear its head again as the older Du Preez brother endured a game he would rather forget. Not only did he fail to provide the backline with an attacking spark, but he was also beaten far too easily for one of the Jaguares tries. One has to question why Robert du Preez senior opted to change what was a working formula.
A dream start, where Sebastian Cancelliere was freed up out wide to open the scoring inside just three minutes, was exactly what the Sharks did not want. It got even better for the hosts as fullback Emilian Boffelli ran an excellent line on the wrap-around to burst through for their second.
While both Boffelli and Joaquín Díaz Bonilla missed kickable penalties, leaving 11 points on the board, the Jaguares were still able to contain the Sharks attack and go into half-time 12-0 up.
It was hardly an ideal start to the second half for the Sharks as they threw away an early opportunity to score, before conceding a couple of soft penalties to allow Diaz Bonilla to extend his side’s lead.
It got even worse as Boffelli beat Du Preez to an up-and-under from Bonilla to run through for his brace. Cancelliere then applied the finishing touches to a counter attack to all but seal the result.
The Sharks looked lively when Bosch was moved back to flyhalf and Aphelele Fassi brought on at fullback, and managed a breakthrough when Andre Esterhuizen forced his way over from close range, but that was to be as good as it got for the visitors.
However, the Jaguares still had the final say as Santiago Carreras grounded a grubber kick through the defence to make for absolute certain the hosts came away with a bonus-point.
Jaguares – Tries: Sebastian Cancelliere (2), Emiliano Boffelli (2), Santiago Carreras. Conversions: Joaquín Díaz Bonilla (3). Penalty: Diaz Bonilla.
Sharks – Tries: Andre Esterhuizen. Conversions: Curwin Bosch.
Jaguares – 15 Emiliano Boffelli, 14 Sebastian Cancelliere, 13 Matías Moroni, 12 Jeronimo de la Fuente (c), 11 Santiago Carreras, 10 Joaquín Díaz Bonilla, 9 Tomás Cubelli, 8 Javier Ortega Desio, 7 Juan Manuel Leguizamón, 6 Pablo Matera, 5 Tomás Lavanini, 4 Marcos Kremer, 3 Santiago Medrano, 2 Agustín Creevy, 1 Mayco Vivas.
Subs: 16 Julián Montoya, 17 Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro, 18 Enrique Pieretto, 19 Lucas Paulos, 20 Francisco Gorrisen, 21 Felipe Ezcurra, 22 Domingo Miotti, 23 Matias Orlando.
Sharks –15 Curwin Bosch, 14 Sbu Nkosi, 13 Lukhanyo Am, 12 Andre Esterhuizen, 11 Makazole Mapimpi, 10 Rob du Preez, 9 Louis Schreuder (c), 8 Dan du Preez, 7 Tyler Paul, 6 Jacques Vermeulen, 5 Ruan Botha, 4 Hyron Andrews, 3 Coenie Oosthuizen, 2 Kerron van Vuuren, 1 Mzamo Majola.
Subs: 16 Craig Burden, 17 Juan Schoeman, 18 Thomas du Toit, 19 Ruben van Heerden, 20 Luke Stringer, 21 Zee Mkhabela, 22 Jeremy Ward, 23 Aphelele Fassi.
Photo: Marcos Brindicci/Getty Images