JOHANNESBURG - They may not be as lethal as the Crusaders, Hurricanes or Chiefs, but the Jaguares are every bit as dangerous with ball in hand and will provide the Lions with one of their toughest challenges defensively this season when the teams meet in the Super Rugby quarter-finals at Ellis Park on Saturday.
That is the opinion of highly-regarded defence coach Joey Mongalo, who said the men from Argentina would be brimming with confidence after making the play-offs for the first time. The Lions beat the Jaguares 47-27 at Ellis Park in round two of the competition, but Mongalo said things would be very different this time around.
“They’ve certainly gained momentum as the competition’s gone on, 100 percent,” said Mongalo. “Also, the fact that they played Test rugby together in June has given them continuity as well, and that’s despite them losing those Tests. But their winning away from home in Super Rugby (against the Rebels, Brumbies, Blues and Chiefs on consecutive weekends) would have been massive for their confidence. And now going into our game on the back of a three-week trip in South Africa, they’d have acclimatised and will be able to fire on all cylinders.
“In play-off rugby recent form means nothing,” added Mongalo, referring to the fact that the Jaguares go into Saturday’s match on the back of defeats to the Bulls and Sharks. “It will have no impact on how they go, or how we go, having won this last weekend. This match is about 80 minutes and who has the desire and will and who executes their skills set best on the day. The form book was thrown away last week.”
Mongalo said the attacking style adopted by the Argentines would test the Lions throughout their defensive system, something not too many teams do in Super Rugby. “Look, the Jaguares are a very good side; they’ve got the most carries and number of passes in the competition, and we expect them to keep the ball quite a bit.
“What makes them different to the other teams is their tempo of play; they thrive on quick ball. Also, there’s unpredictability in their game and you’re never at rest until you’ve got the ball in your hands. They’re dangerous from turnover ball, they run from far and all parts, and they like to handle the ball through many phases, too.”
But Mongalo felt that last weekend’s early scare against the Bulls, who went 12-0 up in the first 20 minutes (before losing 38-12), was the perfect preparation for what they are in for on Saturday. “The Bulls gave us a scare and in a way helped us prepare for the Jaguares in the sense of their keeping the ball through the phases. It was good for our confidence to get through that and not concede points again.”
Not surprisingly, the Lions' defence guru singled out Jaguares flyhalf Nicolas Sanchez as the key figure for his team. “He is the kingpin and most of their stuff is based around him. They all thrive playing off him when they’re on the front foot, running off his shoulder, and we’re going to have to try and stop him. But the Jaguares have more than Sanchez; they’re equally dangerous in the wide channels. Their outside backs are lethal and they counter-attack strongly. It’s why I say we have to take a holistic approach in defence into this game. They’re going to test us everywhere.”