Preview: Jaguares v Brumbies
SUPER RUGBY SEMIFINAL: The Jaguares and twice former champions the Brumbies boast long winning streaks ahead of their clash in Buenos Aires on Friday.
After a disastrous start to the season in which they lost four of six matches, the South Americans have won their last six to reach the last-four stage for the first time.
The Brumbies were equally slow out of the blocks and trailed the Rebels in the Australia section before a dramatic improvement led to a franchise-record seven straight wins.
While the Argentines are eyeing a first appearance in a Final only three years after debuting, the Brumbies hope to reach the title decider a fourth time – having won the competition twice.
In the other semifinal, title favourites and regular season table-toppers the Crusaders are favoured to defeat fellow New Zealanders the Hurricanes Saturday.
Should the Crusaders succeed, they will also host the Final in Christchurch, otherwise, the winners between the Jaguares and the Brumbies get home advantage.
Jaguares skipper Jeronimo de la Fuente has called on his team to defend with the same bravery they displayed in a 21-16 quarterfinal triumph over the Chiefs last weekend.
The inside centre was referring specifically to a spell during the closing stages when Chiefs launched multiple attacks inside the Jaguares’ 22 only to be repeatedly thwarted.
“Our opponents committed a number of knock-ons, because of the intensity of our tackling,” said the Argentinean international midfielder.
“We defended magnificently throughout the match, but especially in that spell about 10 minutes from the end when it seemed inevitable that the Chiefs would score.”
De la Fuente said a secret of the Jaguares’ success just three years after a poor first season in Super Rugby was self-belief.
“We focus on ourselves, we never stop working hard, we learn all the time from our mistakes and we like to dream of playing in the final.”
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A big advantage for the Buenos Aires outfit is that this will be their fourth straight home fixture after an Australasia tour in which they won three of four matches.
Having scored five tries to sink the Sharks last Saturday, the Brumbies started a bus trip from Canberra to Sydney at 06.00 the next day before flights to Auckland and Buenos Aires.
“It is going to be a hard task with the travel and everything but we have won there before,” said Brumbies and Wallabies lock Rory Arnold.
“They [Jaguares] are a world-class team, full of international players. They have got a good record and (have) been playing some really good footy.
“From No.1 to No.8 we have got good players, then some more on the bench. I am quite confident our pack will match theirs.”
The pack will miss Wallaby flank Pete Samu, though, after he limped off with a tight hamstring just after half-time in the 38-13 walloping of the Sharks.
“It’s a tough job going over there, they’re on a good roll,” Samu said.
“They’ve got some good forwards and their back-rowers especially, they’re a quality side around the park and have some elusive backs.
“They’re definitely a Test team.”
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Coach Dan McKellar hailed the team spirit and camaraderie after reaching the semifinals, saying his side would “focus heavily on what we are doing well.
“We have confidence, we have belief, we have a group of blokes who love playing footy together, wearing the jersey and representing our people.”
Should the Brumbies lose, it will be the final match for skipper Christian Lealiifano, Henry Speight, Sam Carter and Arnold, all of whom are leaving the franchise.
Lealiifano will play his 150th game for the franchise and backed his men to silence one of the most hostile crowds in Super Rugby.
“It’s just about doing what we’ve done all year and continue to try and take our chances when they come,” Lealiifano said.
“They’re a physical team, they defend well. They can create something from nothing and punish your mistakes so we’ve got to be clinical with our execution and our set-piece will have to be strong again, but I’m confident.
“The atmosphere is going to be amazing and our challenge is to keep them as quiet as possible by taking the game to them and dominating.”
2019: Jaguares won 20-15, Buenos Aires
2018: Jaguares won 25-20, Canberra
2017: Brumbies won 39-15, Buenos Aires
Road to the play-offs
Prediction: The Jaguares have won their last two Super Rugby games on the bounce against the Brumbies, each by a margin of exactly five points. The spoils are split one win apiece between the Jaguares and Brumbies when playing in Argentina in Super Rugby; the Brumbies picked up a 24-point win in their first ever meeting in the country. The Jaguares have won 10 of their last 12 Super Rugby games on the bounce in Argentina, including their last five on the bounce –their longest home winning streak in the competition. The Jaguares have won their last five games on the bounce against Australian opposition; however, four of those five wins were decided by a single-digit margin. The Brumbies have won their last seven Super Rugby games on the bounce; the last time they won more was an eight-game stretch across the 2004 and 2005 campaigns which included lifting the Super Rugby trophy in the 2004 season. The Brumbies have won only two of their previous seven post-season games away from home in Super Rugby, with both of those wins coming in South Africa (vs Bulls in 2013, vs Stormers in 2015). The Jaguares have made 26 kicks in play per game in Super Rugby 2019, more than any other team in the competition and eight per game more than the Brumbies. The Brumbies have scored 42 first-half tries in Super Rugby 2019, more than any other team in the competition and 15 more than the Jaguares (27). The Jaguares’ Guido Petti Pagadizaval (81) has won more line-outs (including steals) than any other player in Super Rugby 2019; however, Brumbies duo Rory Arnold (78) and Sam Carter (69) are ranked second and third respectively. Thomas Banks (Brumbies) has scored seven tries in his last eight Super Rugby games outside Australia, including one in each of his last three such fixtures
Margin: Six points
Jaguares: 15 Emiliano Boffelli, 14 Sebastián Cancelliere, 13 Matias Orlando, 12 Jeronimo de la Fuente (captain), 11 Matias Moroni, 10 Joaquin Diaz Bonilla, 9 Tomas Cubelli, 8 Javier Ortega Desio, 7 Tomas Lezana, 6 Pablo Matera, 5 Tomas Lavanini, 4 Guido Petti, 3 Santiago Medrano, 2 Agustin Creevy, 1 Mayco Vivas.
Replacements: 16 Julian Montoya, 17 Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro, 18 Enrique Pieretto, 19 Marcos Kremer, 20 Francisco Gorrissen, 21 Felipe Ezcurra, 21 Domingo Miotti, 22 Ramiro Moyano.
Brumbies: 15 Tom Banks, 14 Henry Speight, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Irae Simone, 11 Toni Pulu, 10 Christian Lealiifano (captain), 9 Joe Powell, 8 Lachlan Mccaffrey, 7 Tom Cusack, 6 Rob Valetini, 5 Sam Carter, 4 Rory Arnold, 3 Allan Alaalatoa, 2 Folau Fainga’a, 1 Scott Sio.
Replacements: 16 Connal Mcinerney, 17 James Slipper, 18 Leslie Leuluaialii-Makin, 19 Darcy Swain, 20 Murray Douglas, 21 Jahrome Brown, 22 Matt Lucas, 23 Tom Wright.
Date: Friday, June 28
Venue: Estadio José Amalfitani, Buenos Aires
Kick-off: 20:05 (23.05 GMT; 09.05 Canberra time, Saturday, June 29)
Referee: Mike Fraser (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Glen Jackson (New Zealand), Federico Anselmi (Argentina)_
TMO: Santiago Borsani (Argentina)
Compiled by Jan de Koning, additional reporting by AFP & AAP
* Statistics provided by Opta Sports