DURBAN - The Sharks know that, having arrived in Argentina, they are in for one massive battle when they take on the ever-improving Jaguares on Friday night (9.40pm) at the Estadio Jose Amalfitani.
The Latin side has finally come together as a team that is not to be taken lightly, but they have only reached that on the back of some of their superstar internationals. Coach Robert du Preez has said in the lead-up to this match that they will be playing a Test side.
It will mean some serious head-to-head clashes for the 23 men that take to the park to try and keep the Sharks in the race for playoff rugby.
Agustin Creevy vs the entire Sharks pack
Creevy, the Jaguares captain, and leader of the national side too, is a one-man wrecking ball.
That does not only describe his gameplan, which is abrasive and direct, it describes his entire attitude when he is on the rugby field. The hooker has established himself as a legend of Argentinian rugby with his passion and power, and he will be a constant disruptive threat to the entire Sharks pack.
However, with the likes of Beast Mtawarira playing a lot more front-foot rugby, running the ball and making big hits, Creevy might well be taken down a peg, especially if the brute force of Thomas du Toit is thrown in alongside the skill and speed of Akker van der Merwe.
Tomas Lavanini vs Tyler Paul
In recent games, Tyler Paul has been brought in to add a bit more grunt to a second row that usually has two lineout specialists in Ruan Botha and Stephan Lewies. Paul, not very often spoken about during the game, is usually deep in the rucks and rough stuff, effecting important dominance.
He will have to be especially aggressive up against one of the hardest men in the Jaguares pack, Tomas Lavanini. The Jaguares lock is hugely physical, so much so that he was almost a walking yellow card at one stage, but seeing as they have sorted out his, and the entire team’s discipline, Lavanini is suddenly more than a little useful in asserting dominance.
Robert du Preez vs Nicolas Sanchez
Sanchez is a classical Argentinian flyhalf, in the mould of the little maestro, Juan Martin Hernandez - a former Sharks player himself. Sanchez excels in his game management, and if he has the front foot ball he desires, can get the exciting Jaguares backline going. His vision, and ability to put players away, teamed up with his accurate boot, make him a real threat.
In many respects, Robert du Preez is a similar flyhalf to Sanchez. He too enjoys the front foot ball, but also likes taking the ball to the line himself. His kicking accuracy is also impressive, especially off the tee, so it could all come down to which pack can make their flyhalf look the best.
Jerónimo de la Fuente vs Andre Esterhuizen
De la Fuente has become an integral part of the Jaguares, and Argentina, backline in recent years. He is powerful and well-built, using his power to get over the advantage line, but without sacrificing any of his skill or ability to offload.
Again, his style of play bears some resemblance to his opposite number, Andre Esterhuizen, who is really coming into his own when it comes to moving the ball around. The Sharks man has always been a wrecking ball in the midfield, but he will have to be a bit more savvy to get through De la Fuente.