Argentina takes another exciting step in its remarkable rugby progress when the Jaguares franchise make their Super Rugby debut this season.
Their opening game of the expanded tournament against the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein on Friday will be something of a step into the unknown for the Jaguares but South Africa has become something of a second home for Argentine rugby.
Pumas chief Daniel Hourcade cut his coaching teeth when he took charge of the Pampas, an Argentine side based in South Africa who competed in the country’s Vodacom Cup.
The Pampas won the Cup in 2011 and several of those players were part of the Pumas side that impressed at the 2015 World Cup in England.
There is no great leap from the Pumas to Jaguares given that the majority of the players contracted to the Argentine Rugby Union’s (UAR) Super Rugby franchise were in the squad that reached the World Cup semi-finals in England.
Whether the players will be able to generate as much passion for their club as they do for their country is another question.
Arriving early in South Africa to prepare for their first two Super Rugby matches against the Cheetahs and Sharks, the Jaguares played two friendlies, losing 29-14 to the Stormers before beating the Lions 49-28.
“The team had the dynamics we’re looking for … creating space for the backs to play the ball comfortably and score tries,” centre Jeronimo de la Fuente, who scored three tries in Friday’s second friendly, told the UAR website (www.uar.com.ar).
Captain Agustin Creevy sounded a note of caution, however, saying they needed to tighten up when they lose possession.
“It’s going to be fundamental to improve our defence, slow the ball down a bit, have more continuity in our game and look for more options in attack,” he added.
Not so long ago, Argentine rugby was noted mostly for it defensive attributes but with the Jaguares set to plunge into the dynamic, attacking waters of Super Rugby it can only be good for the Pumas.