Aren’t the Jaguares an amazing success story?
They played out of their skins against the Crusaders on Saturday night. They gave themselves heaps of opportunities to score, a bit of trouble obviously closing the deal – quite a few times, actually – but really gave the Crusaders a bit of work.
It’s amazing that they were in the final this past weekend. They weren’t even playing Super Rugby four years ago. In 2016, they placed 13th, the next year 10th, last year 7th and this year 2nd – that’s an incredible rise.
And it’s brought out the critics, no doubt motivated by jealousy.
One of the things you’ll hear is that they don’t deserve to be there because they’re pretty much fielding their national squad in a regional competition, because of 11 of their players on Saturday are also Puma layers.
Who cares? Look at the Crusaders – how many of them are All Blacks?
Anyway, there are two big lessons to be taken from the Jaguares success story. And this is important for us here in New Zealand when we ‘re seeing the All Blacks bend their self-imposed rule of not picking overseas players for our national squad.
The lesson is how important is it force players who want to play for your national side to play rugby at home, not overseas.
The Argentinians adopted that rule after they saw how well it was working for New Zealand Rugby, how it was preserving a robust domestic competition.
So they made it clear: if Argentinian rugby players didn’t play for the Jaguares or another domestic side, they were banned from national selection.
It meant a couple of outstanding test players who were playing rugby in Europe were counted out of the Pumas. That is why there are so many of their test players in the Jaguares squad, and it’s why the squad is so good.
The second lesson is that you can break that rule if you have to.
Last year, the Argentinian’s decided to relax the rule a little, giving the Pumas the ability to draw in some of those overseas players, but it hasn’t led to an exodus of players. And it hasn’t led to their Super Rugby game falling apart. Look what happened this year – the Jaguares were in the final.
So, bending the rules here in New Zealand for Brodie Retallick or Sam Whitelock or even Beauden Barrett if we have to won’t kill the domestic game. It’s fine to make exceptions for players at the top of their games like those guys, as long as the rule stays the same for the rest of them.
If we’re going to learn a lesson from the sudden rise of the Jaguares. It’s that.