Thursday, January 5, 2012

Juan Imhoff's breakthrough year

Looking at the names nominated alongside the winner Patricio Albacete for the 2011 Argentine player of the year for 2011. They were both 23 year olds called Juan who have both progressed hugely over the past year. One of them was Juan Figallo the other wing Rosario born Juan Imhoff, who was totally unknown for those outside of Argentina or those who watched the shortlist for the IRB 2010 try of the year.

(Video: The Juan Imhoff try nominated for IRB try of the year in 2010)

Imhoff made his debut for Argentina in 2009, and scored 7 tries in his first 3 matches (against Chile and Uruguay) and scored 6 in 3 matches for the Jaguars later that year in the Americas Rugby Championship. Astonishingly despite his try scoring feats, he was overlooked for the inaugural Pampas XV side in 2010, and had to do another year with the Jaguars before being called up to the Pampas XV the following year.

At the beginning of 2011 few would have thought Imhoff would even have a chance of reaching the Argentina World Cup squad, but throughout 2011 he relentlessly would score try after try and made his case for selection simply unavoidable. 10 tries for the Pampas XV in the Vodacom Cup (and nomination for player of the tournament), earned selection for the Pumas wider squad and then despite suffering from Hepatitis A (a liver disease) he managed to come back and score five tries against the South America XV and Worcester, pushing out the more favoured Lucas Borges, Rafael Carballo and Martín Bustos Moyano for a World Cup spot.
Imhoff's overall record for the
Pumas, Jaguars and Pampas XV
is phenomenal, he has scored a
total of 32 tries in 29 matches

It didn’t stop there either, as he impressed against England and Romania off the bench, earning a start against Georgia scoring a try and setting one up. His performances earned him a professional contract with Racing-Métro, where he has started well, despite Racing not being a side like Toulouse or the Crusaders where wingers always look good and score plenty of tries.

Although people will point to the sides Imhoff has scored against as not being the elite, which is true, but Imhoff is a finisher, the majority of his tries aren’t simply because the defence is poor (although a couple in the video are) which stops working at a high level, his skill is his endeavour in support running, opportunism and finishing efficiency that translates into top level rugby. His all round game is solid as well, very good at holding the ball up and has no problem in defence.

Imhoff should be a key player for the Pumas for many years to come, and although there will be no easy tries in the Rugby Championship, I believe that if he stays fit, he will overtake José Maria Nuñez Piossek’s (Paraguay boosted) Argentine record of 29 tries. You heard it here first!

(Video: Juan Imhoff's tries from 2011)

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