The Buenos Aires-based Jaguares face an immense challenge as they face off against the Christchurch-based Crusaders in their first ever appearance in the Super Rugby finals in only their fourth season in the league. The teams will play Saturday at 4:35AM in Christchurch.
“Nothing is impossible in a final,” Jaguares hooker Agustín Creevy said.
By all measures, the Argentine side have the odds stacked against them. The Crusaders have won more titles than any other club (9) in Super Rugby history and only lost two matches in the 16 match regular season finishing in first place. They also scored more tries (81) than any other team.
The Jaguares joined Super Rugby in 2016 with the goal of raising the competitiveness of the national team, which is made up mostly of Jaguars players. And if their Super Rugby performance is any indication of how they will play in the upcoming Rugby World Cup in Japan (September 20-November 2) France and England – The Puma’s main rivals – have good reason to be concerned.
The Jaguars progress, which would have been difficult to predict given their performances in the 2016 and 2017 seasons, has been a spectacle to behold this season.
The Argentine side placed third in the regular season and then went on to see their first win on New Zealander turf against the Auckland Blues in a playoff match. They topped off the season with a seven game winning streak which they would extend to eight with a victory in the finals.
Their record against New Zealander sides is a testament to their evolution as team. After losing their first seven matches they went on to win five of the subsequent seven.
“We have experience a lot of frustration, but four seasons later, we are going to contend a final. It’s crazy, incredible,” centre Matías Orlandos said.
The two squads for Saturday’s match:
Crusaders: Havili - Reece, Ennor, Goodhue, Bridge - Mo'unga, B. Hall - Todd, Read, W. Douglas - S. Whitelock (cap), Dunshea - O. Franks, C. Taylor, Moody.
Jaguares: Boffelli - Moroni, Orlando, De La Fuente (cap), Moyano - Díaz Bonilla, Cubelli - Kremer, Ortega Desio, Matera - Lavanini, Petti - Medrano, Creevy, Tetaz Chaparro.
Crusaders: Makalio, Bower, Alaatoa, Romano, Taufua, Drummond, M. Hunt, Jordan.
Jaguares: Montoya, Vivas, Pieretto, Leguizamón, Lezana, Ezcurra, Miotti, Cancelliere.