Buenos Aires — The Jaguares won the Super Rugby SA conference and secured a home quarterfinal when they demolished the Sharks 34-7 in Buenos Aires on Saturday.
Fullback Emiliano Boffelli and winger Sebastian Cancelliere scored two tries each as the the Argentinian side romped to a bonus-point victory after leading 12-0 at half-time.
The winning margin could have been a lot wider as flyhalf Joaquin Diaz Bonilla missed four of eight shots at goal and Boffelli failed with his only penalty bid.
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Topping the SA table confirmed the progress of the Jaguares, who won just four of 15 matches three years ago in their debut season. Beating the Sharks gave the South Americans a 10 win-five loss record this season and they are set to triumph at home to bottom team the Sunwolves this Friday in the final league round.
If the Jaguares win, they will finish second overall behind runaway leaders the Crusaders of New Zealand, and enjoy home advantage again if they reach the semifinals.
The Crusaders, seeking a third consecutive title and 10th overall, are on 58 points, having completed their 16-match regular season schedule.
Jaguares have 46 points and the Brumbies from Australia 43 and both are assured of home quarterfinals, along with the fourth-placed Hurricanes.
"Winning the SA conference with a match to spare is a wonderful achievement for us," said Jaguares skipper and centre Jeronimo de la Fuente.
"The side did not start the season particularly well, but winning twice on our last visit to SA and winning three of four in Australasia turned it around."
Sharks skipper and scrum-half Louis Schreuder said: "We had to start well to have any chance of winning here, but instead we found ourselves on the back foot for most of the first half. We conceded too many penalties during the opening 40 minutes, which turned promising attacking situations into a need to defend near our tryline.
"However, we are not out of the running for a quarterfinals place. If we can beat the Stormers in Cape Town next Saturday, I believe we will make it."
Cancelliere held off rival winger Makazole Mapimpi to score the first Jaguares try after only four minutes and Boffelli then got his first, which Diaz Bonilla converted for a 12-point advantage.
Instead of scoring to nudge back into contention, the Sharks conceded further tries to Boffelli and Cancelliere and trailed 29-0 by the hour mark.
The Sharks finally scored 12 minutes from time at Estadio Jose Amalfitani when centre Andre Esterhuizen powered over after a rolling maul and full-back Curwin Bosch converted.
But the Jaguares had the final say in the 80th minute when winger Santiago Carreras ran on to a grubber kick and dotted down for his first Super Rugby try. AFP