JOHANNESBURG - The Lions have no fond memories of touring to Buenos Aires for their regular match against the Jaguares but this week, perhaps, have their best chance of picking up their first win in the Argentine capital.
In their three previous visits to Buenos Aires for their scheduled Super Rugby away match against the Jaguares the Lions have lost each time - 34-22 in 2016, 36-24 in 2017 and 49-35 last year.
This year though the Lions and Jaguares clash in the first round - this weekend when the 2019 edition kicks off - and Swys de Bruin and his charges will hope first round nerves and rustiness on the part of the Jaguares will help his team finally get across the line in Buenos Aires.
The Jaguares showed last year when they won seven games on the trot, including their four matches in Australasia, that when they get on a roll they’re very tough to beat.
They knocked over the likes of the Chiefs, Blues, Brumbies and Rebels away from home midway through the competition so playing them early on, before they build up confidence and momentum, is perhaps better than in the latter stages of the competition.
It is for this reason that the Lions may fancy their chances this weekend.
However, they’ll also know that while the Jaguares may be rusty and vulnerable first up, they, too, could produce a disjointed performance in their first outing. Also, in the back of their heads the Lions players will know they’ve never enjoyed the long-haul flight to Argentina or playing in front of the boisterous Jaguares home crowd.
The Argentines will be a confident bunch going into their fourth year of Super Rugby having reached the quarter-finals stage last season, while the Lions have to make do without some key players this year, most notably tighthead prop Ruan Dreyer, lock Franco Mostert and flank Jaco Kriel, who have all left to play in England.
Centre Rohan Janse van Rensburg, too, is no longer a Lions player.
De Bruin’s team warmed up for the competition with fairly low-key encounters against the Bulls, when mainly fringe players turned out for the three-time runners-up, and the Sharks, last weekend in Cape Town. In neither match did the Lions produce their normal free-flowing rugby, which in the past has produced plenty of tries, and captain Warren Whiteley admitted last week, after the Sharks clash, his side would have to find their range and intensity quickly if they were to scare the Jaguares this weekend.
Expect no surprises when De Bruin names his line-up for the match this week. New recruit from the Cape, Carlu Sadie, should start at tighthead prop, while the loose-trio is likely to comprise Whiteley, Kwagga Smith and Hacjivah Dayimani.
The Lions leave for Buenos Aires on Wednesday.@jacq_west