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Jaguares ready to bite into Super Rugby debut

There are seven weeks to go before the start of the new Super Rugby season, and preparations of the new Argentina franchise — the Jaguares — have gone full steam ahead as the South Americans look to a strong start ...

Jaguares ready to bite into Super Rugby debut

Augustin Creevy of Argentina in action during the 2015 Rugby World Cup Pool C match between Argentina and Tonga last year in Leicester, United Kingdom. Photo: Getty Images

There are seven weeks to go before the start of the new Super Rugby season, and preparations of the new Argentina franchise — the Jaguares — have gone full steam ahead as the South Americans look to a strong start ...

BUENOS AIRES — A new era beckons for Argentina rugby now that the Jaguares, the new Buenos Aires-based Super Rugby professional team, have started their pre-season full of excitement for the season ahead.

Led by Puma captain Agustin Creevy and with 20 of his Rugby World Cup 2015 team-mates, including Juan Martin Hernandez, Martin Landajo, Leonardo Senatore and Santiago Cordero, this is the first full-time professional team to be based in Argentina.

“These are exciting times for all of us,” said Creevy. “The Super Rugby tournament is in its 21st season yet it is all new for us.

“If you ask everyone in the team, they are all fans of the style of rugby played in Super Rugby and we are all fully embarked on this project.”

Argentina’s fourth place at the recent RWC bodes well for the future of this team and the Argentine Rugby Union (UAR) decided that players must be playing Super Rugby to be eligible for the national team.

Entry into the southern hemisphere’s elite is part of a long-term plan and pathway decided soon after Los Pumas’ third-place finish at RWC 2007.

World Rugby set out guidelines for Argentine rugby to follow after that, and since then, with a solid high-performance plan in place, the game has grown in the country both in playing numbers and in the strength of its national team.

The Jaguares team — featuring 30 contracted players — have come about after many years of planning and fulfils a long-held ambition for many Argentina players, said former Puma captain Agustin Pichot.

“We have dreamt of playing at this level. It comes after Argentine rugby fulfilled every commitment made in terms of player development and growing the structure in the past few years,” he said.

“Still, we are very proud to have maintained the amateur status of our game as it is an integral part of who we are. Amateur rugby has been a great feeder of our high performance structures. This new professional team will strengthen that separation.”

The Jaguares kick off the new era on Feb 26 against the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein. The Sharks are next up on the Jaguares’ mini-tour of South Africa, before they host the Chiefs at the Velez Sarsfield Stadium on Mar 19, followed by the Stormers a week later. The Jaguares will then play three matches in New Zealand and then one in Japan.

Pumas’ assistant coach Raul Perez will lead a coaching team that includes Argentina Jaguars head coach, Felipe Contepomi.

“Although we have been doing a lot of research and have had a lot of travel experience individually and with different national teams, we are going into something new so we are setting short-term goals and carefully monitor player fatigue,” said the former Argentina international.

RWC 2015 showcased some of the young, raw talent coming out of Argentina. Players such as Cordero, flankers Pablo Matera and Facundo Isa, front-rowers Julian Montoya and Lucas Noguera and locks Tomas Lavanini and Guido Petti are not yet 23 years old.

“I tell the younger players how fortunate they are to be playing professionally at home,” said Creevy, who at 21 moved overseas to play rugby professionally.

The Jaguares started training on Jan 4 at the Buenos Aires Cricket and Rugby Club. “This marks the next exciting phase in the development of the Jaguares having already named the squad, released the logo, the brand and the colours and the rest of the details,” remarked Greg Peters, UAR general rugby manager and former SANZAR CEO.

“The rugby starts in 50 days and to know that the Jaguares will be part of the most exciting of competitions is something that has all of us highly motivated.” AGENCIES

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