They might be the Jaguares in name, but they really the Argentinian national rugby team in personnel, and goodness didn’t they give the Cell C Sharks a run for their money on Saturday.
With the lead changing hands on a number of occasions and neither side always able to establish dominance, such was the brutal, physical and competitive nature of the game, this was a valuable win no matter how you look at it.
“It was very tough, just as tough as we expected it to be,” said head coach Robert du Preez after the Cell C Sharks defeated the Jaguares 18-13 at Growthpoint KINGS PARK. “They’re a very difficult side to play against, a full test team, so I’m very proud of our victory, I think it was a fantastic win.”
Although the near-perfect weather conditions might suggest a game of running rugby, the heat and humidity often turned the ball into a wet bar of soap which helped neither side’s attacking momentum.
“It was very difficult because the ball was really slippery, especially that last 20 minutes. It made it really difficult to play the way we wanted to,” he explained.
Playing different teams requires employing a different game plan in order to counter the strengths and perceived weaknesses of your opponents, and certainly this clash would have demanded a number of different ploys to ensure victory.
Particularly as the Jaguares have refined their structure to combine tough, no-nonsense forwards with a competitive and very physical attitude alongside elusive, strong running backs who bring strong attacking skills to their game.
“This is a team with lots of character and that’s what was demanded of us for this match,” du Preez admitted.
“The forwards were outstanding, they laid the foundation for the win. The bench also contributed, when the new front row came on – Lourens, Thomas and Chiliboy – they really had a strong influence on the game.”
After Garth April pulled a calf muscle on Thursday in a freak injury during practice and didn’t recover in time, a late call was made to bring in Inny Radebe at flyhalf and the youngster performed well, said du Preez.
“I thought he did really well, he came through which is good for me. And he would have learned a lot from this game. It was really tough out there and he wasn’t getting ball on the front foot. He’ll just get better.”
Another player du Preez felt had a big influence on the game was centre Andre Esterhuizen.
“In my opinion, he’s the best 12 in the country, he’s been playing great rugby and his skills levels have improved immensely.”
With the bye ahead over the forthcoming weekend, the players take a well-deserved break before returning for the next few rounds of matches.
“We’ve played seven games on the trot now and it’s been particularly tough, especially with our players going to the Bok camp; we had 13 guys there on Monday and Tuesday and they had a tough work-out, so we only had one day of preparation. The boys are really looking forward to the break before we host the Rebels.”
But for now, smiles are permitted, given that we’re second on the log; this was a crucial victory within our conference.