The regular season of Super Rugby has been somewhat unpredictable and far more entertaining on a whole. The regular season also saw the monumental rise of the Jaguares who secured top spot in the South African conference with relative ease.
The Argentina-based franchise won 11 out of 16 games in the round robin phase of the tournament to end a whopping 10 points clear of the Bulls in the South African conference. Thus earning their first playoff place in the union’s history.
What has made them so successful?
Home form. Travelling to Argentina to play rugby is, on the surface, already intimidating. Different languages, different customs and different crowds create an atmosphere which is politely hostile. Polite in the sense of the respectful nature of the people but hostile in its isolated location relative to the more traditional rugby destinations. Couple all these factors with the admirable passion which seems to continuously ooze from the pores of the players and a fortress is born.
However, let me not get ahead of myself. A fortress can only be that if the team produces results at home both consistently and convincingly. Of eight home game the Jaguares only lost 2 home games with increasing margins as the season progressed. Statistics in sports do not lie and it would be completely absurd for one to think that teh Jose Amalfitani Stadium is not an imposing venue.
Home form alone cannot allow the complete domination of a conference. The Argentines won on the road throughout the season claiming wins in South Africa, Australia and even New Zealand. The union operated in an almost greedy fashion snapping up log points at any chance they got.
The most refreshing aspect has to be the free-flowing simplicity that the side brings to the park. The equation is simple, solid, structured set piece serves as an excellent platform for the likes of Pablo Matera to test the midfield. Quick ball out to the exciting outside backs and all of a sudden there is a defence scrambling on the back foot.
The Jaguares will go into the playoffs with nothing to lose, they have already made history but they will want more. 2019 has been an astounding year for the men in black and orange, no one can argue such. Has 2019 seen the birth of a Super Rugby giant in the making? Only time will tell.