Jaguares are almost a test squad
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
LITTLE MAESTRO Santiago Cordero has been called the Maradona of rugby