SUPER RUGBY FINAL
Beware the Pumas. That was the warning from All Blacks coach Steve Hansen this week when speaking about New Zealand’s Championship Rugby test in Argentina on 20 July.
And with it came his warning to Crusaders on the eve of the defending champions and favourites Super Rugby title defence against the Jaguares in Christchurch on Saturday.
Hansen said he is impressed by the giant strides made the Jaguares in the last year, noting this Saturday’s Super Rugby final features the competition’s two strongest teams.
While the Crusaders start favourites because of home advantage and their enviable pedigree, Hansen believes the South Americans provide a very real threat.
Perhaps. One can be assured that they won’t just lie down and give up, but the Jaguares are distinctly non-favourites, despite a wonderful season, and particularly the latter part thereof when they won 11 of their last 12 matches, including the last seven.
The Jaguares development has been impressive, and they are in their first final after only their fourth season. Whether that will be enough against a side with ten titles in the 23 seasons played, could be wishful thinking for all Argentinians and people who don’t like the kings of Super Rugby.
The Saders are a close unit. Kieran Reid has just completed his 13th season since making his debut in 2007 and Saturday’s final will be the Crusaders swansong for many of them. They will hope to win for one another – but they are very much aware of the Argentinian threat, with the big, mobile and aggressive Jaguares forward pack now supported by a dangerous backline.
The clever money must be on the Crusaders. In the head to head comparisons of this season's performances, the New Zealand side are tops in virtually every aspect.
They are also unbeaten in their last 30 matches at home, and there is the further stat that shows up the task awaiting the Jaguares: Only twice has a team won a final in another country. That was in 2000 when the Crusaders defeated the Brumbies and two years ago when the Crusaders defeated the Lions at Ellis Park in 2017.
15 David Havili, 14 Sevu Reece, 13 Braydon Ennor, 12 Jack Goodhue, 11 George Bridge, 10 Richie Mo’unga, 9 Bryn Hall, 8 Kieran Read, 7 Matt Todd, 6 Whetukamokamo Douglas, 5 Sam Whitelock (captain), 4 Mitchell Dunshea, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Codie Taylor, 1 Joe Moody. Replacements: 16 Andrew Makalio, 17 George Bower, 18 Michael Alaalatoa, 19 Luke Romano, 20 Jordan Taufua, 21 Mitchell Drummond, 22 Mitchell Hunt, 23 Will Jordan.
15 Emiliano Boffelli, 14 Matias Moroni, 13 Matias Orlando, 12 Jeronimo de la Fuente (captain), 11 Ramiro Moyano, 10 Joaquin Diaz Bonilla, 9 Tomas Cubelli, 8 Javier Ortega Desio, 7 Marcos Kremer, 6 Pablo Matera, 5 Tomas Lavanini, 4 Guido Petti, 3 Santiago Medrano, 2 Agustin Creevy, 1 Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro. Replacements: 16 Julian Montoya, 17 Mayco Vivas, 18 Enrique Pieretto, 19 Juan Manuel Leguizamón, 20 Tomas Lezana, 21 Felipe Ezcurra, 22 Domingo Miotti, 23 Sebastián Cancelliere.
Kick-off: Saturday 09:35 (SA time)
Referee: Jaco Peyper
Assistant referees: Mike Fraser, Paul Williams
TMO: Ben Skeen