“We have no breathing space at this stage of the competition and we are desperate to win,” Sharks coach Robert du Preez said after their arrival in Argentina for their Super Rugby clash with the Jaguares in Buenos Aires on Friday.
While he was talking about the do-or-die nature of the match, which will see the winner take control of second place in the South African Conference, he was also inadvertently highlighting one of the great strengths of the in-form Jaguares team, who have won five games in a row.
They don’t give their opposition much room, swarming in defence and bringing ferocious physicality to the collisions and breakdowns. They are a pretty relentless side in terms of hanging on to the ball while they bash away, and in making tackle-after-tackle.
Prolific flyhalf Nicolas Sanchez is adept at turning all that pressure into points, while elusive outside back Emiliano Boffelli has the second-most tries in the competition with 10.
Being under pressure means there will be plenty of focus on the Sharks’ exit-game and Du Preez noted a welcome improvement in that area last weekend in the win over the Chiefs.
“Our exit plays were great after we had a problem with them the week before, so I was very pleased with that. But the Jaguares are very physical and well-balanced, being basically the Argentina Test side, they have really good players in every position.
“I have no doubt that we can beat them, but if we don’t man-up or pitch on the day, then we saw what they did to the Bulls last weekend. The one area of concern for us is that we’re creating quite a few opportunities but we missed three certain tries last weekend, so we need to work hard on that,” Du Preez said.
Du Preez once again had the good fortune to be able to name an unchanged line-up.
“The old adage, ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ comes to mind and certainly it is about rewarding the players once again for their quite outstanding effort against the New Zealanders. As little change as possible works in our favour against a side that are themselves high on confidence.”
Sharks: Curwin Bosch, Sbu Nkosi, Lukhanyo Am, Andre Esterhuizen, Lwazi Mvovo, Robert du Preez, Louis Schreuder, Dan du Preez, Jean-Luc du Preez, Philip van der Walt, Ruan Botha, Tyler Paul, Thomas du Toit, Akker van der Merwe, Beast Mtawarira. Bench: Franco Marais, Juan Schoeman, Ross Geldenhuys, Stephan Lewies, Jacques Vermeulen, Cameron Wright, Marius Louw, Makazole Mapimpi.