A shock win for the Jaguares in Saturday’s Super Rugby final over the Crusaders may be the biggest boost yet for the sport in Argentina.
A maiden Super Rugby crown could mean even more than Argentina’s third-place finish at the 2007 Rugby World Cup in France or indeed their entry in the Rugby Championship and Super Rugby in 2012.
This season’s South African conference winners have played with poise and precision‚ especially in the latter part of the campaign where they have now rattled up 11 wins in their last 12 matches.
They boast truck loads of experience and they have found ways of conquering the demons so readily presented as insurmountable‚ in their long distance travel.
The fact that they have developed a winning culture will be a huge source of comfort for their coach Gonzalo Quesada.
The former flyhalf could not have looked more relaxed in front of the fire place in the lobby of the team’s hotel when the Red final tour walked in on Friday.
The 25-member tour party from South Africa had finally arrived after leaving Dubai’s desert heat 24 hours earlier.
The tour had effectively left behind the place most desperate to be at the centre of the traveller’s universe‚ for Middle Earth.
Quesada whose team has been basking in the spotlight here for the entire week will go into the final having had one more day to recover from their semi-final win over the Brumbies.
For them there is a lot at stake.
Saturday’s final will be the first of two match ups in which the best of New Zealand and Argentina square off over the next two weeks.
In a fortnight‚ the All Blacks will face Argentina in a Rugby Championship encounter in Buenos Aires.
With so many of the Jaguares players spread across the national team‚ the final may yet provide a portent of what is to come.
The Jaguares may be on a roll‚ but few roll with the punches as the nine-time champions. The hosts will be going for their third straight title and while All Blacks coach Steve Hansen earlier in the week noted the wide ranging improvements the South Americans have made to their game he did single out the scrum as an area in which the Jaguares now excel less.
“Traditionally they've been a strong scrummaging side … they've lost a little bit of that strength but gained a lot of other ones‚” he told www.stuff.co.nz.
On a surface that is likely to be soggy in some places‚ and greasy in others‚ the game may well become a battle of wills at close quarters.
In Joe Moody‚ Codie Taylor and Owen Franks the Crusaders have players in their scrum’s vanguard that may well turn the game decisively in their favour.
Crusaders: David Havili; Sevu Reece‚ Braydon Ennor‚ Jack Goodhue‚ George Bridge; Richie Mo’unga‚ Bryn Hall; Kieran Read‚ Matt Todd‚ Whetukamokamo Douglas; Sam Whitelock (captain)‚ Mitchell Dunshea; Owen Franks‚ Codie Taylor‚ Joe Moody. Substitutes: Andrew Makalio‚ George Bower‚ Michael Alaalatoa‚ Luke Romano‚ Jordan Taufua; Mitchell Drummond‚ Mitchell Hunt‚ Will Jordan.
Jaguares: Emiliano Boffelli; Matias Moroni‚ Matias Orlando‚ Jeronimo de la Fuente (captain)‚ Ramiro Moyano; Joaquin Diaz Bonilla‚ Tomas Cubelli; Javier Ortega Desio‚ Marcos Kremer‚ Pablo Matera; Tomas Lavanini‚ Guido Petti; Santiago Medrano‚ Agustin Creevy‚ Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro. Substitutes: Julian Montoya‚ Mayco Vivas‚ Enrique Pieretto‚ Juan Manuel Leguizamón‚ Tomas Lezana; Felipe Ezcurra‚ Domingo Miotti‚ Sebastián Cancelliere.
Kick-off: 9.35 (SA time)
Referee: Jaco Peyper Assistant Referees: Mike Fraser‚ Paul Williams TMO: Ben Skeen Liam Del Carme is on the Red Final Tour courtesy of Vodacom.