Ahead of the 2018 Super Rugby season we take a closer look at each of the tournament’s 15 teams participating. Next up, it’s the Jaguares.
With a new head coach at the helm as Mario Ledesma takes over from Raul Perez, Jaguares fans will hope this gives them the necessary boost up the standings after a disappointing first two seasons in Super Rugby. They’ve finished 13th and 10th thus far, which isn’t good enough.
On paper they had an international line-up in 2016 and 2017, which was filled with Pumas, but just couldn’t put a run of form together and also struggled to make their home venue a fortress. Throw in players filtering to the riches of European competitions and they desperately need a strong season this term to keep their supporters interested. Another bottom half finish without play-off rugby would be a disaster.
Last year: An improvement on their debut campaign as they won three more games but still ended the season nine points off a knockout spot, with the Sharks sneaking in at their expense. They ultimately finished in third position in Africa 2, just five points ahead of the Kings.
Losing Facundo Isa to Lyon was always going to leave a huge hole in their pack and few could blame him for putting pen to paper on a big-money deal. His absence though was felt as Isa is a devastating carrier and was sorely missed, despite the Jaguares winning in Round One.
That opening win at the Kings was just what the doctor ordered and they went close to making it two from two at the Stormers the following week. They would then head home to host the Lions, winning 36-24, and went on to beat the Cheetahs too. It was a seriously positive start.
Before their bye week another home win was recorded, against the Reds, making it four out of five. But they then lost away to the Sharks, Bulls and Lions, followed by a defeat at home to the Sharks, which was a run of losses that seriously dented their play-off aspirations.
Victory over the Sunwolves in Round 11 was soon soured by the Force prevailing in Buenos Aires and after their second bye, the Argentines suffered defeat to the Brumbies before the break for the June internationals. At this point their play-off hopes were well-and-truly over.
A 31-30 home loss to the Kings saw them hit rock bottom but they admirably bounced back with a 40-27 win at the Waratahs and 32-29 result over the Rebels to at least finish on a high note. However, that dire run of four successive losses in April was ultimately their undoing.
This year: Jaguares fans will hope Ledesma’s arrival from the Wallabies gives them a new lease of life while the arrival of Tomas Cubelli from the Brumbies is also a positive move. However, they’ve lost Ramiro Herrera and Lucas Noguera Paz while Santiago Cordero is at Exeter.
Up front they do still boast a strong pack led by Agustin Creevy, with Julian Montoya an able deputy. At lock and in the back-row they’re also well stocked while the backline pretty much picks itself, with Emiliano Boffelli looking to build on a positive campaign last season.
They begin on the road at the Stormers and Lions, which will be a difficult challenge but one where they’ll hope to catch their hosts cold.
A run of four home games thereafter until their bye week simply has to yield at least two wins before the champion Crusaders then arrive.
It is then four matches on the road before another bye when they’ll hope to have their destiny in their own hands heading into five games against South African sides. That’ll be the hope for Ledesma’s men, who we expect to be in a dogfight for one of the lower play-off spots.
Key players: Agustin Creevy continues to be a rock up front for the Jaguares who frustrates opposing teams in the tight exchanges. If he forms a strong spine with those four strong lock options, captain Pablo Matera and the half-backs then the Jaguares will be hard to beat.
Players to watch: The Jaguares will hope to see Tomas Lezana continue to grow as a flanker this season while the same can be said of wing Emiliano Boffelli, whose long-range goal-kicking is also something to keep an eye on as he can punish teams both in hand and off the tee.
Prospects: As mentioned, a place from fourth to eighth is surely the target for the Jaguares as we can’t see them topping a South African Conference that includes last year’s beaten finalists the Lions and a strong Stormers side. Therefore they must hope that, unlike previous seasons, the New Zealand franchises don’t accrue healthy points returns or it may be another Super Rugby campaign without knockout action.
Players in: Franco Brarda (Tala), Javier Diaz (Natacion), Nicolas Leiva (Hindu), Juan Pablo Zeiss (Los Matreros), Diego Fortuny (Universitario de Salta), Santiago Montagner (Alumni), Rodrigo Bruni (San Luis), Tomas Cubelli (Brumbies), Sebastian Cancelliere (Hindu), Bautista Delguy (Pucara)
Players out: Cristian Bartoloni (Charente), Facundo Gigena (Leicester Tigers), Ramiro Herrera (Stade Francais), Lucas Noguera Paz (Bath), Roberto Tejerizo (Tucuman), Juan Cruz Guillemain (released), Ignacio Larrague (Club Atletico San Isidro), Rodrigo Baez (Liceo), Santiago Portillo (Los Tarcos), Gabriel Ascarate (Natacion), Santiago Cordero (Exeter Chiefs), Nicolas Freitas (Carrasco Polo), Manuel Montero (Pucara)
Saturday, February 17 v Stormers (Newlands)
Saturday, February 24 v Lions (Ellis Park)
Saturday, March 3 v Hurricanes (José Amalfitani Stadium)
Saturday, March 10 v Waratahs (José Amalfitani Stadium)
Saturday, March 17 v Reds (José Amalfitani Stadium)
Saturday, March 24 v Lions (José Amalfitani Stadium)
Round 7: BYE
Saturday, April 7 v Crusaders (José Amalfitani Stadium)
Saturday, April 14 v Rebels (AAMI Park)
Sunday, April 22 v Brumbies (GIO Stadium)
Saturday, April 28 v Blues (Eden Park)
Friday, May 4 v Chiefs (Rotorua International Stadium)
Round 13: BYE
Saturday, May 19 v Bulls (José Amalfitani Stadium)
Friday, May 25 v Sharks (José Amalfitani Stadium)
Saturday, June 30 v Stormers (José Amalfitani Stadium)
Saturday, July 7 v Bulls (Loftus Versfeld)
Saturday, July 14 v Sharks (Kings Park)