2016 and 2017 runners-up the Lions will continue their quest to go one better this year when they host the Jaguares at Ellis Park on Saturday.
Both the Lions and the Jaguares were in action last weekend, with the Lions seeing off the Sharks 26-19 and the Jaguares going down 28-20 to the Stormers. The hosts head into this game as clear favourites, but the Argentinian side do tend to cause them problems.
New Lions coach Swys de Bruin, who took over from Johan Ackermann at the end of last season, is under no illusions about the threat posed by Saturday’s opponents.
“They’re good. They came back nicely against the Stormers‚” de Bruin said.
“We watched them against the Bulls (friendly). They are a good unit with a lot of internationals‚ like us.
“You’ve got to keep concentrating against them. You can’t take your foot off the pedal.”
The Jaguares are also under new leadership this season, with Mario Ledesma having taken over as coach.
Ledesma lambasted his players after their loss in Cape Town, claiming: “It [the defeat] is not the referee’s fault. All the handling errors and turnover of possession was our own fault. We need to get better, technically. We can’t concede the possession we did in the first half.”
The team will be eager to respond to their coach’s criticism with an improved performance on the field.
Team news: Mario Ledesma has made two changes to his side after the match in Cape Town. Bautista Delguy starts at right wing with Emiliano Bofelli switching to the left, while Guido Petti starts at lock ahead of Matias Alemanno.
For the Lions, Andries Ferreira returns at lock after withdrawing shortly before the Sharks game. Meanwhile, Marco Jansen van Vuren is set to make his Super Rugby debut at scrum-half off the bench.
Form: The 26-19 win over the Sharks last weekend will have done little to bury the demons of last season’s 25-17 final loss to the Crusaders. Nevertheless, the Lions have generally been in superb form over the last two years, hence their two final appearances.
The Jaguares have won two of their last three away games, but at times showed indiscipline in the 28-20 defeat to the Stormers. A 27th minute yellow card for Joaquin Tuculet arguably played a key role in deciding the result.
2016: Lions won 52-24 in Johannesburg
2016: Jaguares won 34-22 in Buenos Aires
2017: Jaguares won 36-24 in Buenos Aires
2017: Lions won 24-21 in Johannesburg
Lions: 15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Sylvian Mahuza, 13 Lionel Mapoe, 12 Harold Vorster, 11 Aphiwe Dyantyi, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Ross Cronje, 8 Warren Whiteley (c), 7 Cyle Brink, 6 Kwagga Smith, 5 Franco Mostert, 4 Andries Ferreira, 3 Ruan Dreyer, 2 Malcolm Marx, 1 Jacques van Rooyen
Replacements: 16 Robbie Coetzee, 17 Dylan Smith, 18 Jacobie Adriaanse, 19 Lourens Erasmus, 20 Hacjivah Dayimani, 21 Marco Jansen van Vuren, 22 Howard Mnisi, 23 Rohan Janse van Rensburg
Jaguares: 15 Joaquin Tuculet, 14 Bautista Delguy, 13 Matias Orlando, 12 Bautista Ezcurra, 11 Emiliano Boffelli, 10 Nicolas Sanchez, 9 Gonzalo Bertranou, 8 Tomas Lezana, 7 Javier Ortega, 6 Pablo Matera (captain), 5 Tomas Lavanini, 4 Guido Petti, 3 Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro, 2 Agustin Creevy, 1 Felipe Arregui
Replacements: 16 Julian Montoya, 17 Javier Manuel, 18 Juan Pablo Zeiss, 19 Matias Alemanno, 20 Marcos Kremer, 21 Martin Landajo, 22 Leonardo Senatore, 23 Ramiro Moyano
Date: Saturday, 24 February
Kick-off: 15:05 local (13:05 GMT)
Venue: Ellis Park, Johannesburg
Referee: Jaco Peyper (South Africa)
Assistant referees: AJ Jacobs (South Africa), Jaco Pretorius (South Africa)
Television match official: Willie Vos (South Africa)