Gary Gold says the Jaguares are the ‘real deal’ and that the Sharks will be preparing for Saturday’s clash in Durban as if it were a Test match, writes CRAIG LEWIS.
Although the Argentinian newcomers have brought a relatively unknown factor to Super Rugby, many pre-season pundits predicted that the Jaguares could be title contenders based on the international experience boasted by a number of Pumas players in their ranks.
In last weekend's debut match, the Jaguares certainly displayed impressive composure and fighting spirit to overturn a 21-point deficit to clinch an important victory over the Cheetahs, while they provided a number of glimpses into their attacking potential.
The Sharks also made an encouraging start to their campaign with a good win over the Kings last Saturday, but Gold said there was no doubt they would need to make a significant step up against the Jaguares.
‘You’re talking about 10 to 12 guys who’ve been at a World Cup and been part of a team that progressed to that semi-final. The Jaguares are the real deal. They play with a real intensity and freedom, and they will hurt you on attack. They have some world-class players through the spine of the team, and their intent is to come out and play. They’re ferocious at the breakdown, and that can make for a tough day at the office. So we’re preparing for this game as if it were a Test match. You have to give them lots of respect or they’ll run you off your feet.
‘It’s about managing the game and playing in the right areas of the field,’ the Sharks director of rugby added. ‘We have to ensure they aren’t able to camp in our 22 for an extended period because the dam wall will break if you allow them that opportunity. We have to be masters of our destiny and execute our plays clinically.’
Although the Sharks just conceded a solitary try against the Kings, Gold said they knew it would be a different sort of challenge against a fearless Jaguares side.
‘We were honest with ourselves after last weekend and we acknowledged that we have to step up our defensive effort. The Jaguares will ask a lot of questions, and not only from a counter-attacking perspective. We have to be careful what ball we give them because if we kick the ball away and hand them possession, we will be defending for long periods.
‘Conversely, if we play too much rugby in the wrong areas, we can get in trouble. But we have also been scoring some nice tries, in the pre-season games and against the Kings, so we want to keep doing that. We want the likes of JP [Pietersen], Willie [le Roux], Oddie [Odwa Ndungane] and Paul [Jordaan] to get their hands on the ball because we believe we can ask questions of them as well.’
The Sharks have made just two changes to their starting lineup for Saturday’s clash, with Stephan Lewies replacing Hyron Andrews and Pietersen coming in for injured Lwazi Mvovo, and Gold said it would be good to have some extra experience in their ranks.
Photo: Steve Haag/Gallo Images