Jaguares are al­most a test squad

CityPress - - Sport -

Ar­gentina used the Rugby Cham­pi­onship to make the step up into the up­per ech­e­lons of world rugby, and the men from the Pam­pas are de­ter­mined to main­tain this mo­men­tum in Su­per Rugby.

Al­though the Pu­mas lost to the Spring­boks in the bronze play-off game at the World Cup, they gave the All Blacks a good run for their money in the pool stages. Ar­gentina moved away from their ded­i­ca­tion to the “ba­jada” scrum, which for years was the back­bone of their game, to play­ing an ex­cit­ing brand of rugby.

In Su­per Rugby, they are out to show they are wor­thy of the “A” added into San­zaar (South Africa, New Zealand, Ar­gentina, Aus­tralia) to re­flect their par­tic­i­pa­tion.

For years, the most am­a­teur of the big rugby unions, the Ar­gen­tine Rugby Union has moved to en­sure their best play­ers es­chew Euro­pean con­tracts to stay at home.

They have thus been able to in­clude 17 play­ers who took part in the play-off against the Spring­boks, plus cap­tain Agustín Creevy, who sat out that game, in their Su­per Rugby squad.

Creevy, a loose for­ward turned hooker, is one of the most re­spected skip­pers in world rugby and has ex­ten­sive ex­pe­ri­ence play­ing in South Africa, hav­ing led the Pam­pas XV in the Vo­da­com Cup. The only test play­ers miss­ing from the team are wing Juan Imhoff, loose for­ward Juan Martín Fernán­dez Lobbe and prop Mar­cos Ay­erza. South African fans can still look for­ward to the flashy moves of the lit­tle wing San­ti­ago Cordero, de­scribed as the “Maradona of rugby”.

The Ar­gen­tini­ans have named their Su­per Rugby squad the Jaguares (the pro­nun­ci­a­tion is “Ha-goo-ah”. Ha as in happy, goo as in good, and ah). New coach Raúl Pérez be­lieves he has the fire­power to qual­ify for the play-offs.

The Jaguares trav­elled to South Africa early to play warm-up games against the Storm­ers (at New­lands yes­ter­day) and the Lions (at Wits Rugby Club on Fri­day night) and will play their first Su­per Rugby game against the Chee­tahs in Bloem­fontein on the Fri­day night of Fe­bru­ary 26.

– Dan Retief

PHOTO: STEVE HAAG / GALLO IM­AGES

LIT­TLE MAE­STRO San­ti­ago Cordero has been called the Maradona of rugby

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