Jaguares searching for winning recipe
Will the change in coaching staff bring a change in fortunes?
Something needed to be done after the first two seasons in Super Rugby – in which period, under Raúl Pérez, they managed just 11 wins, a paltry 37 percent winning rate.
The new era of the Jaguares will see legendary former Argentinian Test hooker Mario Ledesma take over as head coach – with Martín Gaitán and Nicolás Fernández Miranda as his assistants.
Ledesma, who collected 84 caps between 1996 to 2011, appeared in four World Cups. He has vast experience as a player in France (played in Narbonne, Castres and Clermont, where he won a Top 14 title in 2010) and as assistant coach of the Stade Francais (2011-2012 with Michael Cheika), Montpellier (2012-2014 with Fabien Galthie), Waratahs (2014-2015 again with Cheika) and since 2015, as assistant coach of Wallabies, also with Michael Cheika.
He has a massive task to restore some pride in Argentina rugby, by making the Jaguares more competitive.
Apart from the fact that they blatantly overplayed their players – with the Jaguares doubling up as the Pumas, with the odd exception – discipline contributed to fatigue as they were stuck in the 'also-rans' category.
Discipline, in particular, was a massive issue.
Despite his high work rate, captain Agustin Creevy conceded the most penalties – not the kind of example you want him to set.
The Jaguares averaged more than 10 penalties per match and were guaranteed at least one yellow card per game.
Hard work has neem the keyword for the Jaguares in pre-season.
They have avoided talking about results, but focused on becoming a more "professional" team.
"Professionalism has to do with the way we do things," Ledesma said.
"[It is about] the seriousness, the responsibility, the honesty towards oneself, and giving your maximum in everything you do."
South African Conference Placing: Fifth
Player of the Year: Tomás Cubelli
Rookie of the Year: Santiago Montagner
Super Rugby Placing: Eleventh
In: Thomas Cubelli (Brumbies).
Out: Christian Bartolioni (SA XV Charente), Ramiro Herrera (Stade Français), Lucas Noguera (Bath).
Squad: Agustín Creevy, Benjamin Macome, Crisitian Bartoloni, Enrique Pieretto, Facundo Gigena, Felipe Arregui, Felipe Ezcurra, Guido Petti Pagadizabal, Ignacio Larrague, Javier Ortega Desio, Juan Cruz Guillemaín, Juan Manuel Leguizamón, Julián Montoya, Leonardo Senatore, Paz, Marcos Kremer, Matías Alemanno, Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro, Pablo Matera, , Roberto Tejerizo, Rodrigo Báez, Santiago García Botta, Tomás Lavanini, Tomás Lezana, Bautista Ezcurra, Emiliano Boffelli, Gabriel Ascarate, Gonzalo Bertranou, Jerónimo De La Fuente, Joaquin Diaz Bonilla, Joaquín Tuculet, Juan Martín Hernández, Manuel Montero, Martín Landajo, Matías Moroni, Matías Orlando, Nicolás Freitas, Nicolás Sánchez, Ramiro Moyano, Santiago Alvarez Fourcade, Santiago Cordero, Santiago Gonzalez Iglesias, Thomas Cubelli.
Best finish: Tenth in 2017
Worst finish: Thirteenth in 2016
Super Rugby format
In a move that recognised that the 18-team format of 2016 and 2017 did not work, was confusing and had diluted the standards of the competition, SANZAAR confirmed that the tournament in 2018 would be restructured. The 18-team, four conference format was changed to a 15-team, three conference format. Gone from the competition are the Western Force (Australia), along with the Southern Kings and Cheetahs (South Africa). The Jaguares remained in the now one South African Conference, while the Sunwolves joined the Australia Conference.
Australian Conference: Brumbies, Rebels, Reds, Waratahs, Sunwolves
New Zealand Conference: Blues, Chiefs, Crusaders, Highlanders, Hurricanes
South African Conference: Bulls, Lions, Sharks, Stormers, Jaguares
Each team plays 16 regular season Conference matches that include eight matches within their own Conference (home and away) and four matches against teams from each of the other conferences (home or away). This is 120 matches in the regular season with a seven-match, eight-team play-off series.
Competition points will be awarded in all Regular Season matches on the following basis:
Win: Four points
Draw: Two points
Loss: Zero points for a loss of 8+ points
Bonus: One point for a loss between one and seven points
Bonus: One point for scoring three or more tries more than the opponent
Bye: Zero points
Quarterfinal hosts (four teams)
Three Conference winners
Best Wildcard team – (based on tournament points) regardless of conference
Quarterfinal Wildcard spots (four teams)
Four next best Wildcard teams (based on tournament points) regardless of Conference
By Jan de Koning
* Don't miss the New Zealand and Australian conferences in the coming weeks.