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Jaguares, Brumbies take winning streaks into semifinal showdown

While the Argentines are eyeing a first final appearance only three years after debuting, the Brumbies hope to reach the title decider a fourth time having won the competition twice.

FILE: The Jaguares in action against the Waratahs during their Super Rugby match on 25 May 2019. Picture: @JaguaresARG/Twitter

BUENIS AIRES - The Argentine Jaguares and twice former champions the Australian Brumbies boast long winning streaks ahead of a Super Rugby semifinal clash in Buenos Aires Friday.

After a disastrous start to the season in which they lost four of six matches, the South Americans have won their last six to reach the last-four stage for the first time.

The Brumbies were equally slow out of the blocks and trailed the Rebels in the Australia section before a dramatic improvement led to a club record seven straight wins.

While the Argentines are eyeing a first final appearance only three years after debuting, the Brumbies hope to reach the title decider a fourth time having won the competition twice.

In the other semifinal, title favourites and regular season table-toppers the Crusaders are favoured to defeat fellow New Zealanders the Hurricanes Saturday.

Should the Crusaders succeed, they will also host the final in Christchurch, otherwise the winners between the Jaguares and the Brumbies get home advantage.

Argentine skipper Jeronimo de la Fuente has called on his team to defend with the same bravery they displayed in a 21-16 quarterfinal triumph over the Chiefs last weekend.

The inside centre was referring specifically to a spell during the closing stages when Chiefs launched multiple attacks inside the Jaguares' 22 only to be repeatedly thwarted.

"Our opponents committed a number of knock-ons because of the intensity of our tackling," said the Argentina Test back.

"We defended magnificently throughout the match, but especially in that spell about 10 minutes from the end when it seemed inevitable that the Chiefs would score."

De la Fuente said a secret of the Jaguares' success just three years after a poor first season in Super Rugby was self belief.

"We focus on ourselves, we never stop working hard, we learn all the time from our mistakes and we like to dream of playing in the final."

BIG ADVANTAGE

A big advantage for the Buenos Aires outfit is that this will be their fourth straight home fixture after an Australasia tour in which they won three of four matches.

Having scored five tries to sink the South African Sharks, the Brumbies started a bus trip from Canberra to Sydney at 0600 the next day before flights to Auckland and Buenos Aires.

"It is going to be a hard task with the travel and everything but we have won there before," said Brumbies and Wallabies lock Rory Arnold.

"They (Jaguares) are a world-class team, full of international players. They have got a good record and (have) been playing some really good footy.

"From one to eight we have got good players, then some more on the bench. I am quite confident our pack will match theirs."

The pack will miss Wallabies flanker Pete Samu, though, after he limped off with a tight hamstring just after half-time in the 38-13 walloping of the Sharks.

Coach Dan McKellar hailed the team spirit and camaraderie after reaching the semi-finals, saying his side would "focus heavily on what we are doing well.

"We have confidence, we have belief, we have a group of blokes who love playing footy together, wearing the jersey and representing our people."

Should the Brumbies lose, it will be the final match for skipper Christian Lealiifano, Henry Speight, Sam Carter and Arnold, all of whom are leaving the club.

This is the fourth time the sides have met in Super Rugby with the Jaguares holding a 2-1 lead after losing at home in 2017 and winning away in 2018 and at home two months ago.

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