DURBAN – The Jaguares are currently the form team in Super Rugby, surpassing even the Crusaders for consistency.
After a successful month in Australasia, the Argentinians are now at home to face the Sharks on Saturday.
Mike Greenaway looks at three basic areas the Sharks need to get right to pull off an upset win.
The travel is in the mind
While everybody is pointing out how good the Jaguares have been in winning seven of their last eight games, with nearly all those wins coming on the road, the focus for the Sharks should be on how the Argentinians have fared at home, where they have occasionally been fallible.
This season, the Lions (25-16) and Chiefs (30-27) have managed to record wins in Buenos Aires, so the home team is beatable at the Jose Amalfitani Stadium.
The Sharks have beaten the Lions home and away, so surely they can do what the Joburgers did in Buenos Aires.
And then there is the Sharks’ relatively good away record in Super Rugby. We say “relative” because they have lost five home games this season but impressed in their rout of the Lions at Ellis Park, their victory over the Waratahs in Sydney, the draw with the Crusaders in Christchurch and the narrow loss to the Chiefs in Hamilton.
The Sharks will take belief from how they have fared on the road.
Silence in the crowd
Anybody who has watched rugby at a stadium in Argentina will testify that there are few more intimidating experiences for visitors.
The locals take their cue from football supporters and are rowdy, animated and seldom still. They love to sing and dance, particularly in celebration of a home team try, and with the venues small there can be a deafening din. The noisiest fans at the Jose Amalfitani Stadium are those situated behind the posts and it is customary for the groundsmen to hose down the supporters with water when matters get heated.
So it will only make sense that the Sharks will want to start well and not let the home fans find their voice because a Jaguares team with their tails up and their supporters in full flight is tough to stop.
Fight fire with fire
The Jaguares are notoriously niggly around the breakdowns with their physicality, and have ruled that area in their games this season, but the Sharks can overcome that if their forwards play to their fiery potential.
Hurricanes coach John Plumtree said after his team beat the Sharks last week that a huge focus in their preparation was “doing a job” on the Sharks forwards because the Kiwis knew that if they didn’t fight fire with fire they would not get ball for their dangerous backs, which is their team strength.
The Sharks forwards on Saturday need to emulate what the Hurricanes pack did to them. The likes of warriors Ruan Botha, Coenie Oosthuizen and the Du Preez twins need to get under the skins of the Jaguares forwards and rattle them.@MikeGreenaway67