Ahead of the 2017 season we take a closer look at each of the 18 teams participating in this year’s tournament. Next up, the Jaguares.
It’s only their second season in Super Rugby and after a disappointing 2016 the Jaguares will enjoy the underdog tag going into 2017.
Their greatest strength might be consistency this season considering the large majority of the squad played with the Argentina side last season as recently as November. Head coach Raúl Pérez won’t try rock the boat and will keep the side playing in a similar fashion.
This coupled with their wealth of experience and game-breakers could mean 2017 is a breakout year for the Jaguares.
Last year: The Jaguares didn’t have the dream debut to Super Rugby that many pundits believed they would. The South Americans first season can be remembered by a slew of yellow cards and close losses. They won four games last season, not a record one would expect from a Super Rugby side made up mostly of the Argentine international side.
There were some signs of positivity though as they showed a real attacking edge when they put the visiting Kings side to the sword winning 73-27, scoring a massive 11 tries in the process. They collected three other South African scalps after a 34-33 win over the Cheetahs in their first game, a 29-11 victory over the Bulls in Buenos Aires after dominating the set pieces and a 34-22 success over a Lions second-string team.
Discipline was a massive problem for the Argentines last season after finishing the season statistics for most red cards and second in yellow cards meaning for almost two games they played with 14 men due to a lack of discipline.
This year: The Jaguares will be looking to have a far more successful season after a year of teething in 2016. Argentina looked like they were getting closer in establishing their new expansive game strategy with ball in hand, and given the communication between the Super Rugby franchise and the national side, expect the Jaguares to play with very similar exuberance.
Player retention has been excellent for the Jaguares has they seem to have hung all onto most of their star players while the only player leaving the team of note is Lucas González Amorosino, who was released from the club after being unable to secure himself a starting spot.
The Jaguares start their season with a tour to South Africa with their first fixture being a clash against the Kings in Port Elizabeth, and the game is a grudge match considering that last year they clobbered the Kings at home before losing to them away 22-29. They will want to set the record straight with a big win before travelling to Cape Town to play the Stormers. Otherwise the Jaguares have some easy points available when they host the Reds, the Sunwolves and the Western Force at home.
Key players: Nicolás Sánchez’s level head makes him a key figure in this Jaguares outfit. The former Toulon player never seems to lose his cool, no matter how much pressure he is under and keeps the scoreboard ticking.
Facundo Isa had a breakout season last year after being touted as one of the best number eights in the world. His ferocity and aggression combined with his crash ball expertise makes him a serious game-breaker.
Safe under the high ball and lethal on the counter attack, Joaquín Tuculet personifies the Jaguares dangerous counter-attack. He should get his name on the scoresheet frequently this season.
Players to watch: Buenos Aires behemoth Manuel Montero has struggled to get game time after being plagued by injury but if he remains fit in 2017 this could be his season. Not only is he giant for a winger but Montero has some serious pace to burn.
With star scrum-half Martin Landajo likely to miss out on the start of the season due to injury Felipe Ezcurra is likely to take his place and is a man to take notice of. The nippy scrum-half has a knack for quick distribution which will be vital in getting the ball to his electric backline.
Prospects: A rock-solid forward pack, an exciting backline and plenty of experience amongst their rank – the Jaguares should have a far more successful second season. Considering they are still in their infancy in Super Rugby, title hopes are probably a little beyond them. But a quarter-final berth could definitely be on the cards.
Players In: Nicolás Freitas (Carrasco Polo), Santiago Álvarez (CA San Isidro), Bautista Ezcurra (Hindú), Joaquín Díaz Bonilla (Hindú), Benjamín Macome (Bayonne), Santiago Portillo (Los Tarcos)
Players Out: Lucas González Amorosino (released), Joaquín Paz (Calvisano), Segundo Tuculet (Sevens), Felipe Arregui (Edinburgh)
Saturday, February 25 v Kings (Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, Port Elizabeth)
Saturday, March 4 v Stormers (Newlands, Cape Town)
Saturday, March 11 v Lions (Vélez Sarsfield, Buenos Aires)
Saturday, March 18 v Cheetahs (Vélez Sarsfield, Buenos Aires)
Saturday, March 25 v Reds (Vélez Sarsfield, Buenos Aires)
Round 6: BYE
Saturday, April 8 v Sharks (Kings Park, Durban)
Saturday, April 15 v Bulls (Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria)
Friday, April 21 v Lions (Ellis Park, Johannesburg)
Saturday, April 29 v Sharks (Vélez Sarsfield, Buenos Aires)
Saturday, May 6 v Sunwolves (Vélez Sarsfield, Buenos Aires)
Saturday, May 13 v Force (Vélez Sarsfield, Buenos Aires)
Round 12: BYE
Saturday, May 27 v Brumbies (Vélez Sarsfield, Buenos Aires)
Friday, June 30 v Kings (Vélez Sarsfield, Buenos Aires)
Saturday, July 8 v Waratahs (Allianz Stadium, Sydney)
Friday, July 14 v Rebels (AAMI Park, Melbourne)