Since their inception in 2016, the Argentinian side the Jaguares have been that classic ‘team with potential’. Profited with Los Pumas players, they could not quite transfer that International class onto the field. But recent results show their ‘bite’ in the South African Conference.
This season is 10 weeks into the campaign. Over the nine games played, the Jaguares have won four times. That includes two recent sensational results in Australia. Somewhat ‘against the grain’ the South American team has rebounded from a series of home losses, to account for two of the most ambitious Australian conference teams.
They showed their ‘bite’ and those wins have reverberated through the South African conference – where several teams must soon plan to engage the Jaguares side on their home soil.
After the last fortnight, that is now not such an ‘easy trip’ as once imagined.
Jaguares now showing their ‘bite’ in South African Conference
Our South African-based correspondent Ryan Jordan regularly looks at the South African Conference. His insight often focuses on the sides who reside in the republic – for good reason. The Jaguares have not establish a high degree of credibility….something that might be near changing after recent fixtures.
Going by the popular media sights that cover rugby union in the republic, they have taken notice. Yet even with two wins in Australia – plus the ‘Jags incredible ability to defeat the Lions in Buenos Aires [49-35 in week 6] – some commentators are surprised there is not more widespread acknowledgement of the success of the South African Conference side.
It is not just their ability to defeat the Lions in Argentina that will build a following though. The side have to impress opposition teams; even perform well, so that another sides fans enjoy the brand of football that the Jaguares bring.
Play well, play an high-risk/high-reward type of rugby that makes fans stand-up and shout [on both sides of the Atlantic] and support will grow. But crucially for the sides immediate future, secure results that promote the side to a place where they can compete for the conference lead.
Next two weeks vital for Jaguares 2018 season
Saturday April 28 – Eden Park, Auckland
Possibly, the majority will argue ‘this is a game designed for the Jaguares to win’. If not by design, then fortuitously they meet a Blues team who are still to find their feet. Paddling, but not going in any direction that fans can understand.
The visitors have confidence, so they must play to it. Use their forward power as the base to launch attacks from. And do that from the start – follow the example set by the Highlanders. Gain a lead, which the home side could find it impossible to recover from. Play from a position of ascendancy. That is the secret to success in the third of four matches.
Friday May 4 – FMG Stadium, Hamilton
This match is much more difficult to prepare for. Difficult, because the opposition have much stronger credentials. Those are factors that the 2012/13 champions deserve to be respected for.
How can the Jaguares challenge the Chiefs? More so in the backline, than in the forwards on this occasion. And while that might not seem like the strength of the ‘Jags, for this game, it needs to be.
The Chiefs are damaged in their front row true, but somehow seem to run okay because of the six remaining men who run their pack. But, from the 9-10-12 positions, they are not as strong. If the Jaguares can upset the rhythm of Damian McKenzie, then they could taste success in the Waikato for the first time.
And wouldn’t that make the other South African teams take notice.
Does South Africa want the Jaguares in their conference?
Without sounding judgemental, the question is valid. The answer is not clear though, and it has not had time to develop and mature.
In 2016, they were a novelty. As were the Sunwolves, and like when the Southern Kings or Melbourne Rebels started, it will take time to establish themselves. But unlike the Kings, the Jaguares were retained in the 15 team competition.
Has that created an antipathy? Quite possibly, fans may feel that the Jaguares took the place of either the two SA sides culled. That is not a fabric of the imagination though, but the team from Buenos Aires had no influence in the make-up of the competition. Yet from the outside, the five sides do not fit perfectly….leaving the Jaguares on the outer.
Outer or not, the real factor is distance. Distance which is all too real. That means a different time zone, different conditions; competition sponsors; broadcasting style and feel. It still has an alien feel – to that of the South African-based sides.
Until that familiarity builds, it might need time to develop a shared relationship. And to gain the respect of the fellow conference teams and fans.
Winning can help bring respect to the Jaguares
In closing, their is no ‘secret formula’ on how to bring respect to the franchise. Only three years into their short existence, the Jaguares have had to adapt to the format changes. In knowing that, they look to have solid expectations in 2018.
Mario Ledesma is close to being their key ingredient. After the formative years, new head Ledismo has brought in an experienced coaching background in Super Rugby. The constant challenge of a week-to-week competition, one where charisma is not quite enough to cut it. A head coach who can drive them in a direction that ‘ticks the boxes’ of Super Rugby might be the right formula.
But undoubtedly, winning can help bring respect to the Jaguares. Four wins so far is a tremendous start. Halfway through the season, there is definitely the possibility of many more to come.
Achieve that, achieve a more consistent strike rate of victories, and the inbound teams will certainly need to respect the Jaguares. And consistent winning reinforces the choice by SANZAAR to retain this South American side.
Now, only if they can make their relationship in the South African conference work to their advantage, 2018 could be the start of a terrific growth period for the Jaguares.
“Main photo credit”
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