Jaguares vs Brumbies: Five things we learned

Super Rugby
Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

The Brumbies' 2019 campaign is over after a 39-7 loss to the Jaguares in their Super Rugby semi-final.

What are we talking about after that Saturday morning encounter.

1. Disappointing end for Brumbies in 2019 but Test call-ups on the horizon

The Brumbies’ stellar back-season run was ended abruptly by a ruthless Jaguares outfit on Saturday morning.

This was the Brumbies’ biggest defeat of the season and their first loss since their last visit to Argentina back in April.

Missed lineouts, handling errors, poor decision-making and a lack of possession when it counted all spelled the end for the Brumbies in a game where they were never able to take hold.

It was a night to forget for many of their most in-form players and they’ll be hoping their whole 2019 picture will be considered when it comes to selecting World Cup squads in the coming weeks.

Despite their heartbreaking finish, the Brumbies were clearly the best Australian side this season and plenty of them have demanded a Test call-up.

Their tight five dominated all their Australian opponents and Joe Powell and Christian Lealiifano have been super consistent in the halves.

There'll be plenty of eyes on the squad named for the Wallabies when they convene next week and the share of various team's talent will be a hot topic of discussion.

2. Slow start unravels the Brumbies

The Brumbies said all week that a strong start was crucial to keep a passionate Argentinian crowd quiet and a red-hot Jaguares side on the back foot.

After just four minutes, that hope was all but quashed as former ACT halfback Tomas Cubelli scored the opener for the Jaguares.

The pillars that underpinned the Brumbies success this year were in tatters in the first half. The ACT outfit lost four lineouts in that opening 40, leaving with a success rate of 73.9 per cent, well down from their 90.3 per cent for the rest of the season. 

They finished with a success rate of 81.9 per cent for the game but the damage had already been done in the first half hour.

A try at half-time, Folau Fainga’a’s 12th of the season, kept them in the hunt but their uncharacteristic mistakes they began the game with simply became too much.

The Jaguares were able to quell any sniff of momentum the Brumbies had, riding high on confidence, and the writing was on the wall from an early stage.

3. End of an era as favourite sons depart

The Brumbies’ defeat brought down the curtain on their season but also on the careers of many of their favourite sons.

Captain Christian Lealiifano, Rory Arnold, Sam Carter, David Pocock, Ben Hyne, Henry Speight, Chance Peni, Josh Mann-Rea and Wharenui Hawera are among the names departing the club after that loss.

There aren’t many losses that would be more keenly felt than Lealiifano’s.

The 150-game flyhalf was described this week as the “heartbeat” of the club and after 12 years in Canberra, it’s hard to disagree with that assessment. 

The skipper said post-match that the Brumbies would always have a place in his heart and it’s fair to say that he will always have a place in the hearts of Brumbies fans as well.

4. Travel the ultimate roadblock 

The home finals advantage is proving to be as big as ever after the Jaguares win.

While the Brumbies did everything they could to be ready for the trip and there was little fatigue shown in their performance, the road trip was as tough as any they could have.

There were 31,000 passionate Jaguares fans would not have helped the Brumbies’ confidence and coupled with the short turnaround, it was always going to tough to overcome.

Saturday morning’s result continues a run of home semi-final victories dating all the way back to 2015.

The Highlanders were the last team to take an away win in a Super Rugby semi-final when they beat the Waratahs in that 2015 final four.

While the Jaguares are confident in their ability to travel, they will be hoping for a Hurricanes upset on Saturday night to guarantee they can host their maiden Super Rugby final.

A trip to Christchurch would be a big ask for any team and the Jaguares are no exception.

5. Jaguares’ inclusion paying dividends

The Jaguares are through to the Super Rugby final. Photo: Getty ImagesThe Jaguares’ maiden Super Rugby final spot should be something to be celebrated from all corners of the competition.

The mentality behind bringing the Jaguares into the Super Rugby competition was about improving the quality and interest in rugby in South America and that is finally paying dividends.

FOX Sports pundit and ex-Wallaby Phil Kearns criticised their inclusion in the competition given the number of Test players in their side but it takes more than stars to spell success.

Comparing the two sides on Saturday morning, the Jaguares had 732 caps of Test experience in their 23, with an average of 31 caps per player.

The Brumbies, on the other hand, had just 317 Tests cumulatively, at an average of 13. Where the ACT side’s bench had just one Test capped player in James Slipper while the Jaguares had just two without international experience.

It must be said, though, that this isn’t the first season that the Jaguares have been stacked with Test stars but it is the first in which they have been able to make their mark in the back end of the year.

Test numbers are also far from the most important factor - the Crusaders are the most intimidating Super Rugby opposition and their semi-final team has nine players without a Test to their name.

That the Jaguares are finally getting their things in order should be something to celebrate for Super Rugby but also for rugby around the globe as it looks to take hold in more markets.

This was what SANZAAR wanted when they expanded the competition and strong teams across the board can only mean positive things for the future.