The Jaguares will head into their debut Super Rugby match against the Cheetahs as favourites, writes JON CARDINELLI.
In 2013, the Kings made history when they became the first Super Rugby newcomers to win their debut match. They beat the Force 22-10 in Port Elizabeth on that occasion.
Three years later, and there's a strong chance that the Jaguares will begin their Super Rugby journey in similar fashion.
Unlike the Kings, the Argentinian side won't have the benefit of playing their debut match at home. The Jaguares will, however, field as many as 13 Test players in Bloemfontein this Saturday.
Many of those players contributed to Argentina's relative success (a semi-final finish) at the 2015 World Cup. Agustín Creevy and Ramiro Herera were among the strongest scrummagers at the tournament. Flyhalf Nicolás Sánchez was accurate in front of goal and a revelation with ball in hand. Out wide, winger Santiago Cordero cut opposition defences to shreds.
Argentina made a statement at the World Cup. On defence, they were particularly effective at slowing the ball down at the breakdown. On attack, they looked to play the game at a high tempo and run the ball from deep in their own territory.
The Jaguares have played a similar brand of rugby in the pre-season. There has been talk of them tempering their approach when the situation demands it. But in a battle against the attack-minded Cheetahs, the Jaguares may look to play to their own free-running strengths.
The Cheetahs qualified for the Super Rugby play-offs in 2013. Since then, however, they have regressed horribly. They finished the 2014 tournament in 14th place, and the 2015 installment in 12th. The decision to persist with an all-out attacking style has often backfired.
In 2015, the Cheetahs' biggest weakness was their defence. They will face a big test in that department when they host the Jaguares this Saturday.
The Cheetahs do have one of South Africa's best players in Lood de Jager starting at No 5. However, it will take a collective effort for them to deny a Test-laden Jaguares side a famous win in Bloemfontein.
STATS AND FACTS
– The Cheetahs have won only three of their last 17 matches against teams from outside of South Africa.
– After winning their final match of the 2015 season, the Cheetahs will be looking to secure consecutive victories for the first time since their opening two matches last season.
– The Cheetahs made an average of 133 tackles per game last season, nine more than any other team in the competition (Hurricanes 124).
– The Cheetahs (33.2) were the only team last season to concede an average of more than 30 points per game despite being ranked right in the middle of the pack (eighth) for tackling efficiency (86%).
– The Cheetahs have won only two of their last eight matches hosting a team from outside of South Africa on home soil in Super Rugby and not since round 19 in 2013 have they won such a fixture by more than six points.
|Team||Top point-scorer 2015||Top try-scorer 2015||Most metres gained 2015||Most tackles 2015|
|Cheetahs||Joe Pietersen (92)||Boom Prinsloo (8)||Francois Venter (589)||Boom Prinsloo (187)|
Cheetahs – 15 Clayton Blommetjies, 14 Sergeal Petersen, 13 Francois Venter (c), 12 William Small-Smith, 11 Raymond Rhule, 10 Fred Zeilinga, 9 Shaun Venter, 8 Niell Jordaan, 7 Uzair Cassiem, 6 Boom Prinsloo, 5 Lood de Jager, 4 Carl Wegner, 3 Maks van Dyk, 2 Torsten van Jaarsveld, 1 Charles Marais.
Subs: 16 Jacques du Toit, 17 Ox Nche, 18 Luan de Bruin, 19 Reniel Hugo, 20 Henco Venter, 21 Paul Schoeman, 22 Tian Meyer, 23 Niel Marais.
Jaguares – 15 Joacquín Tuculet, 14 Santiago Cordero, 13 Matías Moroni, 12 Jerónimo de la Fuente, 11 Emiliano Boffelli, 10 Nicolás Sánchez, 9, Martín Landajo, 8 Leonardo Senatore, 7 Rodrigo Báez, 6 Pablo Matera, 5 Tomás Lavanini, 4 Guido Petti, 3 Ramiro Herrera, 2 Agustín Creevy (c), 1 Lucas Noguera.
Subs: 16 Julián Montoya, 17 Santiago García Botta, 18 Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro, 19 Matías Alemanno, 20 Facunda Isa, 21 Gonzalo Bertranou, 22 Santiago González Iglesias, 23 Matías Orlando.
Referee – Stuart Berry (South Africa)
Assistant referees – Rasta Rashivhenge (South Africa), Lourens van der Merwe (South Africa)
TMO – Johan Greeff (South Africa)
Photo: Steve Haag/Gallo Images