JOHANNESBURG – Argentina's Jaguares are stronger than ever and will have a good chance of upsetting the odds at Ellis Park against the Lions on Saturday, but the home team will be no pushovers, according to fullback Joaquin Tuculet.
The Jaguares, who have never won at Ellis Park in four outings, are on a bit of a winning run having knocked over the Bulls and Blues on consecutive weekends after losing to the Lions in round one, in Buenos Aires.
They are a confident bunch ahead of this weekend’s match in Johannesburg, but then again the Lions will be going all out to make up for the shock loss suffered against the Bulls last weekend.
Tuculet, the Jaguares vice-captain, said yesterday his team were a much-improved side from last year when they qualified for the quarter-finals.
“The team is stronger than in 2018, just as it was stronger last year than in 2017. We are growing all the time and are a more mature outfit,” Tuculet said.
“We are now used to Super Rugby, the toughest competition in the world. Of course we are happy with the start we have made this year, with our improved defence especially pleasing.”
He added that he was surprised the Lions had come unstuck against the Bulls last weekend, but said it would make no difference this week; the Lions would still be tough opposition on home soil.
“Yes, the Lions’ last result was a big surprise, mainly because they played the match at home. And they’re so difficult to beat at Ellis Park. They’ll be tough this week, wanting to make up for last week’s loss, and the one before that (against the Stormers),” Tuculet said.
“We’re going to have to be smart about how we play this weekend, and our defence will again have to be solid, like it was last week. Also, we’re going to have to be more disciplined than has been the case up to now.”
Both the Jaguares and Lions are missing some key players right now, with the likes of Agustin Creevy, Gonzalo Bertranou and first-choice skipper Jeronimo de la Fuente all sidelined for the men from Argentina.
The Lions are without Warren Whiteley, Lourens Erasmus and possibly still Cyle Brink, too. And they no longer have a core of experienced players such as Ruan Dreyer, Jacques van Rooyen, Franco Mostert and Jaco Kriel, who all moved abroad in the off-season.
“They are all great players who were important in the Lions set-up, but every year the Lions produce new, quality players,” said Tuculet. “Many of these players were also missing in round one and they beat us, so it’s not as if they’re a weakened side this week.”
The fullback added that the Jaguares were excited about running out at Ellis Park again.
“It’s a historic stadium and a place where we enjoy playing. We’re not intimidated anymore by it, but rather look forward to playing there because we are now used to it,” Tuculet said.
Plenty to play for then come Saturday: the Lions have to hit back after losing two on the trot; while the Jaguares are riding high on confidence after two wins and will be seeking a first ever victory at Ellis Park.@jacq_west