Super Rugby 2019: Ten things you should know about passionate Jaguares

OPINION: No-one saw this coming at the start of the Super Rugby season.

In 2018, the Jaguares finished seventh, despite having a side absolutely brimming with international stars.

Ironically, this year, there was no Nicolas Sanchez - he plays in France now - and many thought their chances of being a major factor this season left with him.

Not so fast.

They have won 11 of their last 12 matches to surge into their first final.

Now they have the toughest task of all - beating a Crusaders team at a ground where they have been unbeaten in their last 30 matches.

Everything says the South Americans are rank outsiders. Right now, the Crusaders are rated as $1.18 favourites, with the Jaguares at $4.80

super rugby playoffs
Photo credit: Newshub.

While everyone expects a Crusaders three-peat to provide the perfect farewell for the likes of Kieran Read, Ryan Crotty, Jordan Taufua, and Owen Franks, fans with no fondness for the two-time defending champions will be barracking for the boys from Buenos Aires.

The two sides have only played each other twice - the Crusaders won  40-14 in 2018 and 32-15 in 2016.

So here are some things you now need to know about the brave Jaguares and Argentina. 

1. Is there a better stadium in Super Rugby than the Jaguares home ground of Estadio Jose Amalfitani Stadium. With a capacity of 50,000, passionate fans are kept off the playing surface by barbed wire fences and a moat.

2. The Jaguares also have some of the best-named players in world rugby - Joaquin Diaz Bonilla, for instance, although surely the best ever is captain Jeronimo de la Fuente.

3. You have to love a team that are always close to tears. As soon as the 'Himno Nacional' starts, you can be sure the floodgates will open.

Pumas belt out the Argentinian national anthem
Pumas belt out the Argentinian national anthem. Photo credit: Photosport

Grown men with tears streaming down their faces - gotta love that.

4. Christchurch steakhouses are about to a roaring trade. The nation is famous for its red meat and red wine.

In fact, on average, Argentinians eat more than a kilogram of beef a week. Can't imagine they will be feasting on lentils and mung beans in the lead-up to Saturday's final.

5. Just imagine what a Super Rugby title would do for Argentinian rugby, remembering this is a nation obsessed with football. In terms of fame and fervour, national rugby captain Pablo Matera ain't no Maradona or Messi.

6. Spare a thought for the great Hugo Porta. A rugby hall-of-famer and one of the world's great first-fives, Porta played in an era (1971-90) when he often carried the side singlehandedly.

Argentinian rugby legend Hugo Porta
Argentinian rugby legend Hugo Porta. Photo credit: Photosport

In the past two decades, how things have changed and how proud he must be of the progress made.  While Argentina have never beaten the All Blacks, there was a 21-all draw in 1985, with Porta kicking four penalties and three drop goals.

7. The jaguar is the third largest cat species in the world, closely resembling the leopard, but larger and sturdier. It's seen as being near the top of the food chain and by making the Super Rugby final, their rugby team would argue they are too.

8. The correct way to pronounce the Jaguares is always a talking point. The correct way is ha-wa-rez, said quickly with no actual emphasis on any syllable.

Not the huggie-wearers, as one commentator once offered.

9. Underdogs they are and who doesn't love an underdog, but Argentina is no rugby backwater. The country has a population of nearly 50 million and has (according to online sources) more than 100,000 players from 420 clubs, while New Zealand has about 600 clubs, and 150,000 registered players.

Argentinian tennis star Gabriela Sabatini
Argentinian tennis star Gabriela Sabatini. Photo credit: Reuters.

10. Argentina's sporting record internationally is wide and varied, from five-time Formula One world champion Jan Manuel Fangio in the 1950s to winning the Football World twice in 1978 and 1986, from tennis superstars Juan Martin del Potro and Gabriela Sabatini, and Davis Cup success in 2016 to golfer Angel Cabrera winning the 2007 US Open.

Can they now add a Super Rugby title just months before the World Cup?

As they say in Argentina, vamos!

Join us at 7:30pm Saturday for live updates of the Crusaders v Jaguares.

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