WELLINGTON (Reuters) – Jaguares coach Gonzalo Quesada said the fairytale run to the Super Rugby final would be a huge boost for Argentina ahead of this year’s Rugby World Cup even if his side fell short of bringing home the trophy.
The Canterbury Crusaders secured their 10th title with a 19-3 victory in Christchurch on Saturday night but the Jaguares could lay claim to being the more enterprising team and placed the All Blacks-laden hosts under pressure for long periods.
Quesada said there had been tears of frustration in the visiting dressing room after the match, while loose forward Pablo Matera had been reluctant to accept his man-of-the-match award.
That disappointment at not being able to conjure an upset away from home against by far the most successful team in Super Rugby history was only a good sign for a Pumas team mostly made up of Jaguares players, he thought.
“It’s good to know there is no (feeling of) mediocrity there,” Quesada told reporters in Christchurch.
“If we were just happy to be in the final then that’s not the mindset you want.
“That was our biggest achievement this season, the belief this team had in what they wanted to do.
“They will take that confidence into the Rugby Championship and start their preparations for the World Cup.”
The Jaguares journey to the final was remarkable in itself, given it was only their fourth season in the competition.
It took them time to adjust to playing at such a high level week in week out, while the travel from Buenos Aires to Australasia and South Africa was a factor they had to adapt to.
The Jaguares have also moved away from a forward-dominated, kicking game with the side adopting a more adventurous style over the last two years.
They are arguably the best ball handling side in the competition and in the days when defenders are up so fast, their backs run some of the most penetrating angles on attack.
They have also developed substantial depth in their squad to the point that 85-cap loose forward Juan Manuel Leguizamon was reduced to a bench role in the final.
Former Wallabies hooker Phil Kearns criticised the inclusion in the competition of the Jaguares because of the number of internationals in their squad but few would argue their presence has not added some much needed variety.
More than 31,000 fans turned the Jose Amalfitani Stadium into a seething cauldron in the semi-final and the small group of noisy supporters at the final in Christchurch proved to be more than a match for the more stoic locals.
Quesada felt their continued success and exposure would only help boost the game in soccer-mad Argentina.
“This was something quite historic,” the former Pumas flyhalf said. “Nobody could imagine this a couple of years ago, or even at the start of the season.
“In Argentina we are trying to make rugby bigger and to play to be an example.
“We know we have the privilege of playing in this competition (and) how big it is for us to be playing the best from South Africa, New Zealand and Australia.”
(Writing by Greg Stutchbury; Editing by Nick Mulvenney)