The Jaguares’ on-field conduct against the Chiefs on Saturday will be a decisive factor in their first Super Rugby match on home soil.
With talented players in every position, the Jaguares have all the makings of a championship-winning team. Their two opening games in the tournament against the Cheetahs and Sharks, however, were blighted by ill-discipline which led to four yellow cards and a penalty try forcing them to play with 13 men in both instances.
While they were able to snatch a win against the Cheetahs, the feisty Argentinians weren’t so lucky against the Sharks. And if the trend of conceding unnecessary cards continues in Buenos Aires, the Chiefs will have a much easier task than anticipated.
As one of three new Super Rugby entrants, the Jaguares could be excused a little over-eagerness during the opening stages of the tournament, but their discipline has to improve drastically if they want to be taken seriously as playoff contenders.
The Chiefs, fresh off a forgettable loss to the Lions in Hamilton, travelled to South Africa and obliterated the rudderless Kings 58-24 with Damian McKenzie the destroyer in-chief. They will undoubtedly continue with the all-out attacking approach, or as the players like to call it, razzle dazzle rugby, but against a team like the Jaguares who follow the same blueprint, it might be their undoing, case in point being the Lions match.
Both teams have shown little regard for defence and thrive in broken play and on the counter-attack, but the one area of their game where the Jaguares have a slight edge is at the breakdown. They have won 19 turnovers in two games compared to the Chiefs’ 18 in three games.
If the Test-laden Jaguares back row manages to successfully disrupt the Chiefs at the set piece, it’ll be much tougher for the likes of McKenzie and Aaron Cruden to make easy running metres. That being said, breakdown dominance alone won’t get them over the line.
The tactical and territorial kicking of halfbacks Nicolás Sanchéz and Martín Landajo, partnered with veteran Juan Martín Hernández at inside centre, must be accurately executed or they will expose their team to the attacking threat of the Chiefs backline, which could have disastrous consequences.
With no clear favourite and the odds evenly stacked, the first-ever Super Rugby match in Argentina, to be played in front of a capacity crowd, promises to be an enthralling encounter. But much will also depend on the behaviour of the hotheaded Jaguares.
Chiefs head coach Dave Rennie has rung the changes for Saturday’s Super Rugby clash in Buenos Aires against the Jaguares.
Hika Elliot and Hiroshi Yamashita come into the front row to join Mitchell Graham, with Michael Allardice and Johan Bardoul making up the rest of the tight five.
Tom Sanders returns to the back row as he joins co-captain Sam Cane and Japan number eight Michael Leitch.
Three changes in the backline see Tawera Kerr-Barlow start at scrum-half with Sam McNicol coming in on the wing. Anton Lienert-Brown also takes over from Seta Tamanivalu at outside centre for his first start of the season.
Chiefs head coach Dave Rennie said: “The Jaguares are an impressive unit but we’ve prepared well, and are looking forward to the challenge.
“We’ve been well looked after since our arrival and it’s exciting to be part of the first Super Rugby game in Argentina. We’ll have to feed off the passionate and vocal crowd.”
HEAD TO HEAD
This is the teams’ first meeting
STATS THAT MATTER
– The Jaguares head home for the first time in their Super Rugby history and will also face their first-ever New Zealand opposition after a win and a loss against South African opponents.
– The Chiefs’ 58-point haul against the Kings last weekend was their fourth most points ever in a Super Rugby match and their most since the highest-scoring match in Super Rugby history in round two in 2010.
– The Chiefs have won their last two away matches outside New Zealand by a combined scoreline of 82-27.
– The Jaguares are one of only two teams (the other being the Sharks) in the competition who are yet to concede a try in the second half of a match.
– James Lowe has made seven offloads this season, the equal second most of any player and one more than Chiefs teammate Charlie Ngatai, who is ranked equal fourth.
Jaguares – 15 Jaoquin Tuculet, 14 Santiago Cordero, 13 Jerónimo de la Fuente, 12 Juan Martin Hernandez, 11 Emiliano Boffelli, 10 Nicolás Sánchez, 9 Martín Landajo, 8 Leonardo Senatore, 7 Juan M Leguizamón, 6 Pablo Matera, 5 Tomás Lavanini, 4 Guido Petti, 3 Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro, 2 Agustín Creevy (c), 1 Santiago García Botta.
Subs: 16 Julián Montoya, 17 Roberto Tejerizo, 18 Felipe Arregui, 19 Matías Alemanno, 20 Facundo Isa, 21 Felipe Ezcurra, 22 Santiago González Iglesias, 23 Matías Moroni.
Chiefs: 15 Damian McKenzie, 14 Sam McNicol, 13 Anton Lienert-Brown, 12 Charlie Ngatai, 11 James Lowe, 10 Aaron Cruden (cc), 9 Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 8 Michael Leitch, 7 Sam Cane (cc), 6 Tom Sanders, 5 Johan Bardoul, 4 Michael Allardice, 3 Hiroshi Yamashita, 2 Hika Elliot, 1 Mitchell Graham
Subs: 16 Rhys Marshall, 17 Pauliasi Manu, 18 Siate Tokolahi, 19 Taleni Seu, 20 Maama Vaipulu, 21 Brad Weber, 22 Seta Tamanivalu, 23 Glen Fisiiahi
Date: Saturday, March 19
Venue: Vélez Sarsfield, Buenos Aires
Kick-off: 18:40 local (21:40 GMT)
Referee: Chris Pollock
Assistant Referees: Jamie Nutbrown, Federico Anselmi
TMO: Santiago Borsani