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June 27, 2017
Monday, March 20, 2017

Jaguares v Cheetahs: much more than a catfight

By Frankie Deges / For the Herald

The Jaguares will play against
the Cheetahs in what promises to be much more than a cat fight (pun intended!). After one of the best games played by the Argentine franchise last weekend, hopes have been raised for a team that needed a good performance in order to build on it as the season progresses.
The Lions again misunderstood the challenge of playing in Buenos Aires and the motivating factor it is for a team that a year ago struggled with so much travel. The losing finalists of 2016 chose to rest some of its players (they did the same in 2016) and the Jaguares punished them, clearly beating them. The scoreline does not reflect the difference between both teams as a late rally — when the game was already won and dusted — allowed the visiting team to narrow the scoreline.
Discipline continues to be an issue that needs constant addressing. It is something the team works on but it seems that they are not finding their way around it.
Earlier this year, a newspaper in New Zealand wondered how many sinbins and red cards the Jaguares would receive in this Super Rugby tournament. It’s that big an issue.
To add to this, Nicolás Sánchez has been suspended for a week for dangerous charging. He kicked ahead and timed his charge on a Lions player awfully, hitting his opponent in the air and falling himself to the ground neck first. How he avoided a yellow card there and then (let alone a red or serious injury) speaks of the inconsistency of refereeing, more so in these days in which player welfare is, understandably, at its highest on the game’s agenda. Sánchez manned up and apologised but it doesn’t evade the fact of how dangerous a challenge it was.
Later in the game, after a series of infringements, flanker Tomás Lezana was sinbinned, prompting a short-lived comeback by Lions. This was the fifth yellow card in three games.
Two more games are scheduled for Vélez Sarsfield before the team goes again on the road, as the Reds will be hosted next week. The Jaguares will play an Australian franchise for the first time.
SANZAAR recently reviewed its competitions and although it was mentioned in the short press release, cuts are expected to the number of teams playing Super Rugby. The good news is that the Jaguares have not been mentioned as one of the teams that may be cut. The Cheetahs have been, which means they will be desperate to prove a point.
They have a similar record to our national franchise, having won two and lost their third game, against the Lions in the season opener. After three home games, the game at Vélez will be their first away fixture of the season.
Travelling to Buenos Aires is an issue for visiting sides. The Cheetahs for example left Bloemfontein and flew to Ezeiza via Johannesburg and São Paulo. Travel weary, they will play against a team that has now been back at home for a couple of weeks. These kind of differences should not be be underestimated.
Ticket sales have risen in the last week, proving how important a good performance is when it comes to attracting crowds. A win against the Cheetahs whilst playing well could generate record crowds against the Reds. 
                              
@frankiedeges
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