'Basically a Test team': Stacked with Pumas, the Jaguares are starting to purr in Super Rugby

They’re armed with a Test-strength starting team and a Test-strength bench, and to beat them you’ll have to play Test-quality rugby.

So says Waratahs lock Rob Simmons about the Jaguares; the Argentinian Super Rugby side who’ll do battle with NSW at Bankwest Stadium on Saturday night.

It’s important to make the distinction and add the “Super Rugby” when playing the Jaguares because they are also effectively also the Argentinian national team. 

When Super Rugby finishes up, the same players will switch the Pumas training gear and embark on a Rugby Championship campaign against the Wallabies, All Blacks and Springboks.

“They’re basically an international team,” Simmons said.

“I am not too sure if they’ll have a player out there who hasn’t played  … for their country.”

There are, in fact, two Jaguares named against the Waratahs without Pumas Test caps; winger Santiago Carreras and prop Mayco Vivas.

But apart from that rookie pair, the 21 other Jaguares players have played Test rugby, and collectively, the numbers add up to an impressive tally.

Of a total 750 Test caps, the Jaguares have 442 Test caps in their starting line-up, and a whopping 308 on their bench, with veterans stars like Agustin Creevy, Tomás Lavanini and Juan Manuel Leguizamón in reserve.

All up, the Jaguares have 11 players with more than 40 Test caps a team-wide average of 32.6 Tests per man.

And while it has taken a while for the Jaguares to get purring since their inclusion in Super Rugby in 2016 brought most of their foreign-based players home, it comes as no surprise to anyone that the Pumas-in-disguise are now starting to fire.

The Jaguares downed the red-hot Hurricanes in Wellington last week, and after winning five of their last six games now sit atop the African conference.

“So they’re basically a Test match team and that’s what we’ll have to play it like, like a Test match,” Simmons said.

The Waratahs, it must be said, have a not-too-shabby Test cap tally of their own.

Their combined Test tally is 713 but that count is mostly shared among seven veterans: Kurtley Beale (82), Adam Ashley-Cooper (116), Bernard Foley (67), Nick Phipps (70), Michael Hooper (91), Rob Simmons (92) and Sekope Kepu (101).

Alongside them are 11 Waratahs with no Test caps – six of whom sit on NSW’s bench.

And NSW have struggled against the Jaguares in their two encounters; in 2017 they went down 40-27 at the SFS in a very poor performance, and last year the Jaguares raced to a 33-7 halftime lead in Buenos Aires before winning 38-28.

“The Jags for me are a top two side, they’re a very good side,” Waratahs coach Daryl Gibson said. 

“They are a very good defensive team and are really improved. This weekend is going to be a tough battle, the boys know we’re going to have to be at our best. 

“Last year in Buenos Aires we made a lot of errors and went 30 behind in the first half, so we know we can’t commit that same ill-discipline with ball in hand. 

“We know they are very organised this year defensively. They are the number two side defensively and very hard to break down. The lateral stuff we played against the Reds won’t work against this team.”

Like the Pumas, the Jaguares have evolved considerably from being a set-piece-based outfit. They have some of the most skilful and elusive running backs in world rugby, and can control a game with the boot too.

“Being a part of Super Rugby, from day one they’ve changed that (scrum-only stereotype),” Simmons said. 

“They clearly still love that part of the game but all their skills have got so much better over the last three or four years, and they actually enjoy that part of the game, throwing the ball around and their forwards like to interplay with their backs.

“In counter-attack they play really care free and really throw it around and can get themselves a bit isolated, but they seem to make it work.

“It feels frantic and looks real frantic but they know what’s going on. It is a little bit of a surprise packet.

“They sometimes get passes away that you wouldn’t think is going to happen. Basically a really hard team to plan for.”

The Waratahs will have to impose themselves on the game, and carry forward the improved composure seen in their late-game win over Queensland, where they played territory, defended strongly and kicked points to edge ahead.

“We have to go back to rugby 101, try and win that physical battle and the set-piece battle.,” Simmons said.

“Especially for the forwards, if we can win that up front, our backs can do their part.”

The Waratahs take on the Jaguares at Bankwest Stadium on Saturday, at 7.45pm. LIVE on FoxSports, Kayo and RUGBY.com.au Radio.




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