Super Rugby Preview: Jaguares

Date published: February 15 2016

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Before the start of Super Rugby 2016 we take a closer look at each of the sides in the competition. First up, the Jaguares.

Hopes are high for the first Super Rugby franchise from Argentina, who out of the three new sides coming into the competition look in the best position to be successful based on the quality of their squad.

Can the Jaguares’ impressive list of internationals handle the rigours of a gruelling Super Rugby schedule none of them have experienced before though? That’s the big question which awaits Agustín Creevy and the rest of his players as they embark on an adventure they have waited years for.

Head coach Raúl Pérez freely admitted that his side struggled with the pace of the game in their pre-season defeat to the Stormers last weekend and that they have to adapt quickly to the tempo required. Early rustiness isn’t a shock, but the Jaguares are expected to hit the ground running.

This Year: Placed in the Africa 2 Conference – with the Sharks, Kings and Lions – the Jaguares have as good a chance as any of the four sides to top the group and to push for a playoff spot if they can pick up the pace of the tournament.

Visiting teams travelling to the Estadio José Amalfitani in Buenos Aires will find themselves battling against an intense home crowd.

The Jaguares first major test away from home should come in Round 7 away to the Hurricanes, when we'll know more about their ability to handle the competition.

Just four of the Jaguares' 34-man squad are uncapped – far fewer than any other side – and their pack will be expected to match the top sides and demolish the weaker ones in the set-piece.

At the same time the Jaguares' clear ambition is to play with the same freedom that we saw from Argentina during the Rugby World Cup. Playing that way requires a high level of execution and no room for multiple errors. If they choose to win or lose by that philosophy then we're set for an exciting year.

Key Players: The fitness of Nicolás Sánchez will be pivotal. The former Toulon fly-half has proven in the Rugby Championship what a deadly goalkicker he can be, scoring the most points in 2014, and those late conversions and penalties could make or break a promising season. Sánchez has also been at the heart of Argentina's attacking metamorphosis and will play a similar role in Super Rugby.

Agustín Creevy's leadership will be tested in new ways and in Santiago Cordero the Jaguares have an electrifying talent out wide capable of scoring spectacular tries.

Players to Watch: Going back to the World Cup, Creevy's back-up Julián Montoya was beginning to make a name for himself with his lineout accuracy and ability to carry over the gain line in the loose. Still only 22, Montoya should see plenty of action as he rotates with Creevy throughout the year.

Facundo Isa is another 22-year-old, this time in the back row, who has shown plenty of athleticism in his Test appearances for his country and offers both a try-scoring threat from close-range and a source of turnover ball at the breakdown.

Finally the strong carrying of Matías Moroni, a try-scorer in Argentina's quarter-final thrashing of Ireland at the World Cup, could prove to be a potent weapon.

Prospects: It would be wrong to dissect the Jaguares opening pre-season loss too intensely and the foundations are certainly in place for them to be successful if they adapt quickly enough.

Expect them to push for top spot in Africa 2 and therefore a home quarter-final spot, or failing that to battle for third place in the South African group.

Squad: Matias Alemanno, Felipe Arregui, Gabriel Ascarate, Rodrigo Baez, Cristian Bartolini, Gonzalo Bertranou, Emiliano Boffelli, Thomas Carrió, Santiago Cordero, Agustín Creevy, Jerónimo De la Fuente, Felipe Ezcurra, Santiago García Botta, Santiago González Iglesias, Ramiro Herrera, Santiago Iglesias Valdez, Facundo Isa, Martin Landajo, Ignacio Larrague, Thomas Lavanini, Juan Manuel Leguizamón, Thomas Lezana, Pablo Matera, Julian Montoya, Matías Moroni, Ramiro Moyano, Lucas Noguera, Matías Orlando, Javier Ortega Desio, Guido Petti, Nicolás Sánchez, Leonardo Senatore, Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro, Joaquín Tuculet

Fixtures:

Fri, 26 Feb vs Cheetahs (Free State Stadium, Bloemfontein)
Sat, 5 March vs Sharks (Kings Park Stadium, Durban)
Round 3: BYE
Sat, 19 March vs Chiefs (Estadio José Amalfitani, Buenos Aires)
Sat, 26 March vs Stormers (Estadio José Amalfitani, Buenos Aires)
Sat, 2 April vs Blues (QBE Stadium, Albany)
Sat, 9 April vs Hurricanes (Westpac Stadium, Wellington)
Fri, 15 April vs Crusaders (AMI Stadium, Christchurch)
Sat, 23 April vs Sunwolves (Prince Chichibu Memorial Stadium, Tokyo)
Sat, 30 April vs Kings (Estadio José Amalfitani, Buenos Aires)
Round 11: BYE
Sat, 14 May v Sharks (Estadio José Amalfitani, Buenos Aires)
Sat, 21 May v Lions (Ellis Park, Johannesburg)
Fri, 27 May vs Kings (Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, Port Elizabeth)
Sat, 2 July vs Bulls (Estadio José Amalfitani, Buenos Aires)
Sat, 9 July vs Highlanders (Estadio José Amalfitani, Buenos Aires)
Sat, 16 July vs Lions (Estadio José Amalfitani, Buenos Aires)

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