DURBAN - Those who have faced the Argentinian rugby squad as it stands know that there are two teams. The one that goes by the name of the Pumas, and the other big cats in the South American jungle, the Jaguares.
But perhaps there are three teams as the Boks prepare to take on the Pumas at home - a totally different beast. The Jaguares, who make up the entire Argentina squad baring Brumbies scrumhalf Tomas Cubelli, are a totally different team to the one that dons the famous sky blue and white hoops.
Latin pride for the nation of Argentina seems to instantly give the national side, made of the same players as their Super Rugby team, an additional gear. But, playing at home, the Pumas seem to find a whole new gearbox, and Jaco Kriel knows this better than most.
The Jaguares - at home - have sunk the Lions twice, once costing them a shot at a final at home, and the Lions flank knows that on their own turf, they can be a very “different monster.”
“We have to start working again,” a determined Kriel said, still in Port Elizabeth as the Boks delay their two-day travel to Salta. “Argentinians in their own home country are a different monster.”
“We really are starting to work hard this week, and focusing on the weekend ahead, not thinking about the travel too much.”
A lot is being made about the Boks' travel to Argentina, especially with the original plan being for them to leave on Tuesday, however, Kriel adds that the long haul flight and associated jet lag, is far softer heading west, than returning from there.
“If you go there, you feel quite fresh,” the flank explained. “It is coming back where it becomes difficult, getting back into your sleep patterns again. You feel quite tired and drained.”
Luckily the Boks have a break after this two-round bout with the Pumas and they will be able to get settled before preparing to take on those camped out East in New Zealand and Australia.
Kriel is wary of the famous Latin pride, that he knows will reach fever pitch at the atmospheric and hostile Estadio Padre Ernesto Martearena in Salta. Passionate fans, with the Boks far from home, bracing for an Argentine backlash, and things could get a lot tougher than last Saturday in P.E.
“The Argentinians are a proud nation, and they won’t take this weekend lightly.” Kriel added. “Going back home, in front of their fans, they will be very physical and will want to prove a point. All we can do is stick to what we do and focus on our own job, and not focus on them.