A first-ever meeting between the Jaguares and Force will finish off Round 12 of Super Rugby when the two teams clash on Saturday.
After a bright start to the year the Jaguares have suffered a crucial mid-season dip, losing key ground on the in the South African Group as they head into the weekend eight points adrift of the Sharks.
Last Saturday’s dramatic victory over the Sunwolves went some way to fixing that situation, although the fact that the Jaguares scored over 40 points and came out on top of the Japanese franchise should not gloss over the issues they faced in the match.
Worked over at the breakdown and cut open in defence, Raúl Pérez and his coaching staff will have had plenty of work to do this week.
Fix those areas and the Jaguares are a well-rounded outfit, who showed off the power of their set-piece with two rolling maul tries against the Sunwolves finished off by captain Agustín Creevy.
The hooker and Argentina captain, as was the case last year, has been his side’s outstanding player once again Super Rugby. His match-up with Tatafu Polota-Nau would have been the pick of the weekend’s one-on-one battles, but the Wallaby has been rested by Force coach Dave Wessels.
Under a cloud all season of being cut from the competition, the Force have been a far better outfit in 2017 than many of their Australian counterparts.
Close-run defeats at home suggested that the Force were competitive, making last weekend’s 37-12 loss away in Durban to the Sharks a disappointment.
No Polota-Nau and no Matt Hodgson, both rested, puts the Force on the backfoot somewhat against a tough Jaguares pack. But then a number of players for the Perth franchise have come out of left field to make an impact for the Force this season, including Isireli Naisarani, who this week starts from the bench.
Without those two leaders the trip to Buenos Aires feels like a demanding task. If the Jaguares can find better fluidity in attack and cut down on those handling errors, then this game could prove highly rewarding.
Team news: Jaguares head coach Raúl Pérez has opted to make seven changes to his side. Martín Landajo makes a welcome first start of the year, with the Argentina scrum-half partnering Juan Martín Hernández. Two more changes to the back division come at inside centre and on the left wing, with the return of Jerónimo de la Fuente and Batista Ezcurra. In the back row veteran Juan Manuel Leguizamón starts in the seven shirt, with Leonardo Senatore dropping to the bench as Benjamin Macome gets a run at number eight. Matías Alemanno comes into the second row to take the place of Marcos Kremer, who drops out of the matchday 23 as Tomás Lavanini comes onto the bench. The front row remains unchanged, with Agustín Creevy captaining the side once again. There also three other news faces on the bench; replacement hooker Julían Montoya, tighthead prop Felipe Arregui, and a welcome return too for Manuel Montero.
Western Force head coach Dave Wessels has made several rotational changes to the matchday 23. Loosehead prop Francois van Wyk moves into the starting jumper for the first time this season, while club captain Heath Tessmann has earnt his fourth start of the season at hooker. It’s taken over 18 months, but finally for the first time we will see Adam Coleman and Richie Arnold starting in the second row together, combining to be one of the tallest lock combinations in Super Rugby. Ross Haylett-Petty moves to the blindside flanker position, Onehunga Havili will make his run-on debut at openside flanker and Richard Hardwick rounds out the forward pack changes in the number eight jersey. Changes in the backline see Semisi Masirewa come in for his first game of the season and veteran Peter Grant slots into full-back for his first start of 2017. Anaru Rangi is the only new face on the bench, as the big New Zealander is set to come on for his second match of the season at reserve hooker.
Form: This will be the first meeting between these teams, though the Argentinian squad boast a 100 percent win rate against Australian teams after a 22-8 win against the Reds in Round 5 this season. The Jaguares have won seven of their last 10 games at home, losing only to the Highlanders and Sharks (x2).
The Force have won just one of their last 14 games outside Australia, with that win coming against the Sunwolves in Round 11 last season. The Force are the least disciplined team in the competition, conceding a league-high 11.9 penalties per game this season. The Argentinian side have averaged more carries per game than anyone else so far in this campaign (132).
Jaguares: 15 Joaquín Tuculet, 14 Santiago Cordero, 13 Matias Orlando, 12 Jerónimo de la Fuente, 11 Batista Ezcurra, 10 Juan Martín Hernández, 9 Martín Landajo, 8 Benjamin Macome, 7 Juan Manuel Leguizamón, 6 Tomás Lezana, 5 Matías Alemanno, 4 Guido Petti, 3 Ramiro Herrera, 2 Agustín Creevy, 1 Santiago Garcia Botta
Replacements: 16 Julían Montoya, 17 Lucas Noguera Paz, 18 Felipe Arregui, 19 Tomás Lavanini, 20 Leonardo Senatore, 21 Gonzalo Bertranou, 22 Joaquín Díaz Bonilla, 23 Manuel Montero
Force: 15 Peter Grant, 14 Semisi Masirewa, 13 Curtis Rona, 12 Billy Meakes, 11 Alex Newsome, 10 Jono Lance, 9 Ian Prior, 8 Richard Hardwick, 7 Onehunga Havili, 6 Ross Haylett-Petty, 5 Adam Coleman, 4 Richie Arnold, 3 Tetera Faulkner, 2 Heath Tessmann (c), 1 Francois van Wyk
Replacements: 16 Anaru Rangi, 17 Pek Cowan, 18 Shambeckler Vui, 19 Lewis Carmichael, 20 Brynard Stander, 21 Isireli Naisarani, 22 Mitchell Short, 23 James Verity-Amm
Date: Saturday, May 13
Venue: Velez Sarsfield, Buenos Aires
Kick-off: 18:40 local (21:40 GMT)
Referee: Ben O’Keeffe
Assistant Referees: Juan Sylvestre, Jose Covasi
TMO: Santiagi Borsani