Tuesday, June 5, 2012

The Rugby Championship Players to Watch - Juan Imhoff

When Santiago Phelan named Juan Imhoff in his 30 man squad for Rugby World Cup 2011 it appeared that he was there with the future in mind. Yet despite being picked ahead of Montpellier´s goalkicking ace, Martín Bustos Moyano, Imhoff was not expected to be used much during the tournament, if at all. He loomed as a player who could possibly feature in the matches vs second tier opposition - Romania and Georgia and be injury cover, should the need arise, for the squads other wingers.


Imhoff for Los Pampas XV
Imhoff was simply so unknown twelve months ago that the suggestion that he could possibly make the match day 22 appeared to be remote. But at age 23 and having only played one test vs a first tier opponent, Imhoff was on Argentina´s bench for the teams first match of Rugby World Cup 2011 and he played the majority of that match after coming on for the injured Felipe Contepomi in the 36th minute. His only previous test vs a first tier opponent had also been from the bench, vs Wales in August 2011 - a match which was Argentina´s only test of the year outside of the World Cup. Imhoff had made the bench after an impressive breakthrough season of semi-professional rugby in South Africa´ Vodacom Cup during which he was the tournaments leading tryscorer and had plenty to do with the teams championship triumph. In addition to making the bench vs Wales, he went on to play in Argentina´s two other matches in 2011 scoring two tries vs Aviva Premiership club, Worcester Warriors in August and three vs the South American XV, known as the CONSUR XV in June

Imhoff for Los Pumas vs Worcester
The match in Dunedin was Imhoff´ fifth official test match after having debuted in 2009 vs South American neighbours, Chile. On that occassion he scored four tries and then three days latter he scored another vs Uruguay in what was the 2009 South American Championship (CONSUR A). At the time he was only 21 and considered too young which put him behind players who went on to play in the 2010 Vodacom Cup while Imhoff remained in his native city of Rosario. The following year he would leave a lasting print on Argentine rugby officials and, indeed, find himself dominating in a South African competition, playing World Cup rugby and playing as a professional at the elite level in France. Such is the try scoring statistics of Imhoff that he has the credentials to tear apart all opposition, including the three teams that Los Pumas will go up against in The Rugby Championship. In his eight test appearance, Imhoff has scored nine tries. Such a record is rare in all test rugby, let alone in Argentine rugby.

Imhoff for Racing Métro vs Cardiff Blues
The statistics are not merely a reflection of him facing Tier Three opposition as followers of European club rugby and, in particular, the Top 14, have quickly come to appreciate. Despite having been signed by Paris´ Racing Metro as a Medical Joker, Imhoff has taken firm control of the teams left wing position in his first season of professional rugby with Italy´s Mirco Bergamasco being the biggest loser as Imhoff played nineteen matched this season with fourteen of them being on the left wing. He scored six tries for the Parisians, three in each of the Heineken Cup and Top 14 and did so despite reciving little support from his teammates as his tries followed the pattern of him breaking clear of the opposition and also defeating the covering tackle. This pattern is comparable to Wales´ Shane Williams and the comparisons do not stop there as Imhoff runs sharp lines, moves well off both feet and is very hard to take down. 

His form in France is certain to see him be Argentina´ starting left winger in The Rugby Championship and it is exciting times for Argentine rugby New Zealand´ Rugby World Cup 2011 winning coach, Graham Henry currently assisting the coaches develop enhanced game plans to score more tries. With Phelan having named six wingers in his squad of 24 players, to be enlarged to 30, for the Rugby Championship it seems that significant changes are on the cards with Horacio Agulla quite possibly moving to play inside centre and Lucas González Amorosino playing fullback. Such a scenario would see Argentina having more attacking options and Imhoff looms as the ideal finisher and given his skills go far beyond just finishing off the plays created by others, Imhoff could well take The Rugby Championship by storm. 

Week Three: Marcelo Bosch
Week Four: Agustín Creevy
Week Eight: Rodrigo Roncero
Week Nine: Gonzalo Camacho
Week Ten: Patricio Albacete
Week Eleven: Horacio Agulla
Week Twelve: Juan Figallo
Week Thirteen: Santiago Fernández
Week Fourteen: Tomás Cubelli 
Week Fifteen: Marcos Ayerza
Week Sixteen: Manuel Carizza
Week Seventeen: Nicolás Vergallo
Week Eighteen: Juan José Imhoff
Week Nineteen: Alvaro Galindo

3 comments:

  1. Ahhh....another light footed mercurial player from the land of the pampas....vodacom academy graduate, likes to celebrate cups, too, and in my opinion, that year's player of the tournament....

    Argentine rugby is flowing along well with so many developing wingers in sync with the new rule books to ensure quicker and faster games.... ideal conditions for teams who are designed like pacing ferraris.... able to capitalize on technical skills and harmonious movements across the field of action....

    I really liked what i saw from cordero against france....but the fact that for so long with so much adversity in the game and so many things going wrong....they coped well....were patient as only mature players and teams can be....and even succeeded in keeping their try line
    i n v i c t a....with Puma Defense....

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  2. How do you think Argentina will fare in the Rugby Championship? Your blog gives a really nice insight into the progress of Argentina in rugby. Nice to see as there doesn't seem to be much coverage of it!

    I have my wn blog too (dumptackle rugby blog) if you're interested in having a read.

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    1. The leading Pumas players are as good as anybody as evidenced by the 2011-2012 European season.So, Argentina will certainly be highly competitive and at home will be a real force against all three teams.

      What has been happening with Pumas in Europe has been highly revolutionary as now there are some outstanding wingers, unlike in the past. There are five who all merit starting. All in all, its safe to say Argentina are in a strong position and with the talent coming through the Los Pampas XV system a bright future is on the cards. This team could well go on to World Cup glory in 2015.

      Thanks for sharing your blog. Its a good one! If you want to swap ideas or material just let me know.

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