If the Jaguares can continue to work on their discipline, another playoff and title shot looms, writes DYLAN JACK in his SA Rugby magazine preview.
After three frustrating years in Super Rugby, the Argentinians finally came good in 2019, fulfilling their promise as they went all the way to Christchurch for their first final.
However devastated the players were after their 19-3 loss to the Crusaders, the 2019 season as a whole was a sign of what the team could do when they pulled together. Coach Gonzalo Quesada emphasised the positives of their achievement, viewing it as the beginning of something special.
‘The guys are in tears because they went through a hell of a season,’ he said. ‘But it is good to know there is no mediocrity. It was something quite historic. No one could have imagined this a couple of years ago, even at the beginning of the season.’
The 2020 season is the Jaguares’ chance to show that 2019 was not just a once-off success. However, they will have to do so without influential flank Pablo Matera, who has left to take up a contract with French side Stade Francais.
Replacing Matera as a leader and a player will pose a unique challenge. The flank was easily the team’s best player last year and named Man of the Match in the final. The Jaguares were, however, able to build some depth by giving some of their younger players a taste of professional rugby through the Pampas XV in the Vodacom Cup.
While the standard of competition is obviously many steps below that of Super Rugby, it nevertheless exposed their youth to the rigours of a professional set-up.
The Jaguares have also retained most of last year’s team that formed the core of Argentina’s squad for the 2019 World Cup. They have a favourable start to the season with three home games against the Lions, Hurricanes and Reds, before a short tour to South Africa to play the Stormers, Sharks and Bulls. That should present the team with the opportunity to come away with at least a few wins, especially if they replicate their efforts from 2019, when they beat the Bulls and Sharks away from home.
It will be all the more important for the Jaguares to capitalise on their start, given they have a challenging tour to Australasia, facing the Brumbies and Blues, before travelling to Christchurch to meet the Crusaders in a repeat of last year’s final.
The Jaguares have been criticised in the past for their lack of discipline and composure. However, this is an area in which they took major steps forward last year. If they can continue in this vein, another playoff and title shot is likely for the Argentinians.
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