Super Rugby Match Preview
Saturday 17th February, 2018
Stormers vs Jaguares
Venue: Newlands, Cape Town
Kickoff: 15h05 Local Time, 13h05 GMT
Referee: Jaco Peyper
Assistant referees: Marius van der Westhuizen, Egon Seconds
TMO: Christie du Preez
Somehow the Jaguares always draw the short straw when their season opens. Invariably, their first game is away from home, and most usually in South Africa. 2018 is no different, they travel to Cape Town to play the Stormers, again.
This is possibly a different Jaguares to the somewhat feisty cannon fodder of the previous two seasons. First and foremost, they have a new coach, Mario Ledesma, a man with a coaching pedigree, and a more disciplined approach to the game than his predecessor. Will he have instilled a different attitude and approach in his charges?
They also have a new captain, Pablo Matera, replacing Agustín Creevy as the team leader. Creevy is a great captain at the national level and a gentleman to boot, but he has a penchant for bleeding penalties when playing for the Jaguares. He also seemed incapable of inspiring the Jaguares at crucial moments. Perhaps Matera will do better?
The Stormers have a horrid couple of weeks ahead of them, they are on the road after this fixture, and have to play the Waratahs, Crusaders, and then the Highlanders in their respective home patches. They should be a bit worried! It was the tour to New Zealand that saw the wheels come off the Stormers season in 2017, after a really great start in their first six games.
Given last year’s poor performances on tour, the Stormers really need to get their season off to a good start with a win over the Jaguares.
The Stormers’ early season has more than just the early tour to worry about! They are somewhat depleted by injuries and will have to get through the first month or two without some of their heaviest artillery. They are missing their Springbok 2nd row of Etzebeth and du Toit, but do have the good news that Wilco Louw is available. Others who are not available for this game, or the tour to Australasia are Frans Malherbe, and Jano Vermaak, SP Marais, Scarra Ntubeni, Ali Vermaak, Jean-Luc du Plessis, Dan du Plessis, and Juarno Augustus.
The Stormers team for this game shows a number of changes to the outfit we watched last year. The regulars are there, Leyds, Senatla, de Allende, and Viljoen featured regularly last year. The 11 jersey will be worn by Raymond Rhule, an off-season signing from the Cheetahs. Some may question the value of Rhule, especially as his defensive frailties were cruelly exposed in 2017. He does, however, bring some serious finishing ability with the ball in hand.
Damian Willemse will step into the flyhalf berth, replacing Rob du Preez who abandoned the Cape to join his father and brothers at the Sharks. Willemse is a serious talent and one hopes that being thrown into the deep end as the first choice 10 is not too early in his career.
The forward pack is missing some old stalwarts, Rocky Elstadt to name just one, he has left the country, Ollie Kebble too. Sikhumbuzo Notshe is still with the SA Sevens squad. Add the loss of Etzebeth and Du Toit and one would be a little concerned. Yet the two replacement locks, Schickerling and van Zyl, have proved their worth at both Currie Cup and Super Rugby level in the past.
The loose trio looks good, with Nizaam Carr coming back from a stellar couple of months in the UK, Siya Kolisi is as good as it gets, and Cobus Wiese earned respect playing for Western Province in 2017.
Despite the injuries and the departure of some big names, this is still a Stormers team that looks well balanced and full of running talent.
Mario Ledesma has named a very familiar looking Jaguares starting line-up. (He has not announced his reserves yet.)
Agustin Creevy starts at hooker with Felipe Arregui and Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro as the props on either side of him. Tomas Lavanini and Matias Alemanno are a good second row.
Pablo Matera, Javier Ortega Desio and Tomas Lezana form a solid back-row trio in front of half-backs Gonzalo Bertanou and Nicolas Sanchez, while Bautista Ezcurra runs out at 12 alongside Matias Orlando, with Emiliano Boffelli, Ramiro Moyano and Joaquin Tuculet the back three.
Perhaps the only surprise in this team is that Thomas Cubelli has not been named to start at 9. Perhaps he will feature in the reserves when they are announced?
The Stormers might have scored plenty of tries in 2017, 64 of them in all, but they leaked plenty too! 61 in all. This made them the fifth worst in the competition and by some distance the worst of the teams that made the play-offs.
They could excuse this poor showing by saying that most of those tries were scored during that horrid tour of New Zealand that saw them concede 50 points, twice in three games. This might be so, but the point has to be that their defensive systems failed miserably. They did improve in the latter part of 2017, but they need to ensure that they do not allow soft tries gain.
On the positive side of the balance sheet was the way the Stormers learned from the 2016 season. In that year, they started to embrace the open attacking methods of the modern game, emulating their compatriot Lions. Yet they struggled to actually convert possession and position into tries. Sometimes it looked as if they could not buy a try with all the money in the world.
Handling errors were legion, and a lack of finishing through poor passing, poor support lines, and simple ineptitude were at the root of the problem. Over eagerness perhaps?
In 2017 they showed that they had absorbed the lessons of 2016, and they became a try-scoring unit at last.
If they continue to build on that base they are likely to become a very exciting team to watch.
The Jaguares have had a horrendous introduction to Super Rugby. Despite their international credentials they were simply unable to make the step up in pace, intensity, and discipline required of an overly-long Super season. They struggled to adapt to travelling.
They also struggled to bring their international game plan to Super Rugby. At the international level the Argentineans had built a reputation for exciting counter-attacking rugby and taking the ball wide, all based around a solid, if not spectacular, pack of forwards. All this deserted them in Super Rugby.
Under Ledesma we are likely to see a more solid scrummaging performance, he is a specialist in this area. Lineouts and mauls will be tighter, and more focussed too. He will also ask them to be more physical and disciplined. He brought this element to the Wallaby pack when he was assistant to Michael Cheika, and he will bring it to the Jaguares.
He will also focus on accurate defence and tactical disciplines, areas where the Jaguares have often been found wanting.
These are things we know Ledesma will want to bring to the Jaguares. The question that must be asked is whether they can shake off the bad habits of the previous two years?
Can they improve on a truly woeful disciplinary record? They simply cannot continue the habit of conceding around 12 penalties and a yellow card or two in every game.
We know they will be abrasive at the breakdowns, we know they will be disruptive in the loose phases and around the fringes of the rucks and mauls, that is their game.
Their set-pieces have been a weakness that we can expect the Stormers to target from the outset. That front row of Kitshoff, Mbonambi, and Louw has a formidable look to it.
The Jaguares have it all to do.
The Stormers pack will look to gel and establish a measure of superiority from the outset. They will want to get all their gears moving together and in the same direction. If they get this unit working, they will trouble the Jaguares.
The Stormers loose-forwards have two of the form players of 2017 in Carr and Kolisi, with the solid Cobus Wiese to back them. They will trouble the Jaguares at the breakdown and out wide.
If the Stormers build on their adventurous approach of 2017, and have sorted out some of the defensive frailties of the past, they will be a handful.
The Jaguares have so much to do to fix what is broken, and they may just struggle with new coaching systems and tactics early in the season. Yes, they have the individual abilities to win this game, but do not be betting your retirement funds on it.
The weather is unlikely to have much influence on the game. It will be a mild 24℃ with a gentle breeze from the west south-west. Nothing that will make a difference at Newlands.
Despite the non-availability of some big names, this Stormers team looks good enough to win this game comfortably. I would say by at least 14 points.
Stormers: 15 Dillyn Leyds, 14 Seabelo Senatla, 13 EW Viljoen, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Raymond Rhule, 10 Damian Willemse, 9 Dewaldt Duvenage, 8 Nizaam Carr, 7 Cobus Wiese, 6 Siyamthanda Kolisi (captain), 5 John Schickerling, 4 Chris van Zyl, 3 Wilco Louw, 2 Mbongeni Mbonambi, 1 Steven Kitshoff.
Replacements: 16 Ramone Samuels, 17 Jacobus Janse van Rensburg, 18 Carlu Sadie, 19 Jan de Klerk, 20 Kobus van Dyk, 21 Justin Phillips, 22 George Whitehead, 23 Johannes Engelbrecht.
Jaguares: 15 Joaquin Tuculet, 14 Ramiro Moyano, 13 Matías Orlando, 12 Bautista Ezcurra, 11 Emiliano Boffelli, 10 Nicolás Sánchez, 9 Gonzalo Bertranou, 8 Tomás Lezana, 7 Javier Ortega Desio, 6 Pablo Matera (captain), 5 Tomás Lavanini, 4 Matías Alemanno, 3 Nahuel Tétaz Chaparro, 2 Agustín Creevy, 1 Felipe Arregui.