Endangered Kings pile more misery on Jaguares
A Southern Kings team facing the Super Rugby axe next week triumphed 31-30 in Buenos Aires Friday as a horror run by the Jaguares continued.
It was the fourth win in six matches for the one-time South African whipping boys, and the seventh loss in eight games for an Argentine outfit who began the season promisingly.
Jaguares led 20-14 at half-time in an often scrappy, error-strewn round 15 tussle in which only pride was at stake in Estadio Jose Amalfitani as neither team can reach the knockout phase.
The decisive score came nine minutes from time when Kings winger Wandile Mjekevu scored a try which skipper and fly-half Lionel Cronje converted for a six-point advantage.
Jaguares fullback Joaquin Tuculet scored in the corner to trim the gap to one point, but substitute fly-half Joaquin Diaz Bonilla missed a conversion that would have given his side the lead.
Poor goal-kicking cost the Jaguares dearly as fly-half Nicolas Sanchez fluffed four of six shots at the posts and Bonilla was wide with his two attempts.
Cronje was much more successful, succeeding with five of six kicks at goal as Kings triumphed in what could be their last Super Rugby match outside South Africa.
Dwindling crowds, shrinking TV audiences and a format that many followers of the competition find confusing are among the reasons why Super Rugby will reduce from 18 teams to 15 next year. South Africa have to cull two of their six teams and one Australian side among five — either Melbourne Rebels or Western Force — will also drop out.
The South African rugby board plan to announce the two casualties next Friday and the media favourites for the chop are Kings and the Bloemfontein-based Central Cheetahs.
They have the poorest overall records and lowest crowds among the South African sides, but the recent form of the star-less Kings has been impressive with two of the four wins on the road. Kings were always competitive against a team packed with Argentine internationals, but who lacked inspirational skipper and hooker Agustin Creevy due to an injury.
As the second half progressed, the South Africans scrummed superbly and a powerful surge from one set-piece led to the Mjekevu try.
Kings trailed once and led twice before a Sanchez try and conversion two minutes from half-time delivered a six-point advantage to his side by the break.
An early second-half try from Tuculet stretched the lead to 25-14 — the widest gap between the teams during the match. Cronje kicked a penalty and converted a Makazole Mapimpi try to leave the Kings just one point behind and Mjekevu then struck the decisive blow.
Centre Luzuko Vulindlu, Mapimpi (two) and Mjekevu scored tries for Kings and Cronje kicked four conversions and a penalty.
Loose forward Juan Manuel Leguizamon, winger Emiliano Boffelli, Sanchez and Tuculet (two) were Jaguares’ try scorers.
Sanchez, the leading points scorer at the 2015 Rugby World Cup in England where Argentina finished fourth, kicked one conversion and one penalty.