The Jaguares’ record against the Sharks reads four successive defeats since their inception into Super Rugby, but can they end that run this weekend?
This should be the hosts’ best chance of reversing their fortunes against the Durban-based outfit following the team’s outstanding form, which has very much put them in the play-off race. Five successive victories have lifted Mario Ledesma’s men into second position in the South African Conference and seventh overall, one point ahead of Friday’s opponents.
Head coach Ledesma has done a wonderful job in his first year in charge, improving the basics of the game that constantly frustrated the Buenos Aires-based outfit over the last two seasons. While Raul Perez’s stance was admirable in attempting to develop their skills and attacking play, he went too far away from what the country were renowned for and, as a result, the franchise were mistake-ridden.
They were too easy to play against but the former hooker has rectified that somewhat and Ledesma’s charges are now genuine contenders for the knockout stages. With the Lions struggling before their victory over the Brumbies, both the Jaguares and Sharks have an opportunity to put future pressure on Swys de Bruin’s side.
While most of the praise in the conference has been heaped on the Jaguares, Robert du Preez’s men should also not be discounted after their recent improvement. Consistency had been an issue for the South Africans but three victories out of four suggests that they are starting to find their rhythm.
The Durban team have a very talented XV and, most crucially, individuals in fine form, with Andre Esterhuizen, Jean-Luc du Preez and Curwin Bosch all standing out this season, but is it enough to halt the Argentinian juggernaut?
Du Preez’s outfit have an impressive record against the hosts but all of them were tight encounters – the biggest margin of victory being eight – and their opponents have, over their previous five contests, produced some superb displays.
Although the Jaguares have been hampered by some of their best players going overseas to Europe, it is still close to the best Argentina has to offer and the Sharks may go the same way as the Bulls.
The last time the teams met: It was a narrow victory for the Sharks, who went away with an impressive 33-25 triumph over the Jaguares in Buenos Aires. The visitors started well and touched down through Phillip van der Walt, but the home side responded via Joaquin Tuculet and Matias Orlando efforts. Tries for Etienne Oosthuizen and Thomas du Toit put the Durban-based team in control before Bautista Ezcurra hit back for the hosts, but the kicking of Curwin Bosch proved the difference, with the youngster scoring 18 points from the tee.
Team news: The Jaguares have made just one alteration to their starting XV.
The only change from the run-on side which claimed an impressive 54-24 victory against the Bulls last weekend sees Ramiro Moyano starting on the left wing where he replaces Sebastian Cancelliere.
This means Emiliano Boffelli will start at full-back again while back-row Tomas Lezana continues as captain in the absence of first-choice skipper Pablo Matera, who is still sidelined with a shoulder injury.
Head coach Mario Ledesma has also made one change to his replacements bench with Juan Manuel Leguizamón taking over from fellow veteran Leonardo Senatore as back-row cover.
Meanwhile, Sharks head coach Robert du Preez has once again had the good fortune to be able to name an unchanged line-up, having retained the match-day 23 from last week’s match.
They have a lethal backline which contains the in-form Curwin Bosch, Andre Esterhuizen and Robert du Preez, while the pack is similarly strong.
Tendai Mtawarira, Akker van der Merwe and Thomas du Toit form a powerful front-row and in Jean Luc du Preez – Robert’s brother – they arguably have the outstanding flanker of this season’s competition.
2017: Sharks won 33-25 in Buenos Aires
2017: Sharks won 18-13 in Durban
2016: Sharks won 25-22 in Buenos Aires
2016: Sharks won 19-15 in Durban.
Jaguares: 15 Emiliano Boffelli, 14 Bautista Delguy, 13 Matias Orlando, 12 Jeronimo de le Fuente, 11 Ramiro Moyano, 10 Nicolas Sanchez, 9 Gonzalo Bertranou, 8 Javier Ortega Desio, 7 Marcos Kremer, 6 Tomas Lezana (c), 5 Tomas Lavanini, 4 Guido Petti, 3 Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro, 2 Agustin Creevy, 1 Santiago Garcia Botta
Replacements: 16 Julian Montoya, 17 Javier Diaz, 18 Santiago Medrano, 19 Matias Alemanno, 20 Leonardo Senatore, 21 Martin Landajo, 22 Bautista Ezcurra, 23 Juan Cruz Mallia
Sharks: 15 Curwin Bosch, 14 Sbu Nkosi, 13 Lukhanyo Am, 12 Andre Esterhuizen, 11 Lwazi Mvovo, 10 Robert du Preez, 9 Louis Schreuder, 8 Daniel du Preez, 7 Jean-Luc du Preez, 6 Philip van der Walt, 5 Ruan Botha (c), 4 Tyler Paul, 3 Thomas du Toit, 2 Akker van der Merwe, 1 Tendai Mtawarira
Replacements: 16 Franco Marais, 17 Juan Schoeman, 18 Ross Geldenhuys, 19 Stephan Lewies, 20 Jacques Vermeulen, 21 Cameron Wright, 22 Marius Louw, 23 Makazole Mapimpi
Date: Friday, May 25
Venue: Estadio José Amalfitani, Buenos Aires
Kick-off: 16:40 local (19:40 GMT)
Referee: Paul Williams (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Damian Schneider (Argentina), José Covasi (Argentina)
TMO: Santiago Borsani (Argentina)