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Preview: South Africa v Argentina

Fri, 17 Aug 2012 07:37
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Welcome to Newlands Los Pumas
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For just the 14th time South Africa will play Argentina, under those names, the Springboks will play the Pumas. So far in these matches the Springboks have always won.

This will be the first time they meet at Newlands and the first time in the brand new Rugby Championship, which has brought Argentina into the embrace of the other three Southern superpowers, SANZAR.

The two countries have met from time to time since 1932, but it was not till 1993, apartheid over, that they met as Argentina and South Africa, Springboks and Pumas.

The Springbok name was born on South Africa's first tour abroad - to Europe; the Puma name was born on Argentina's first tour off this continent - to Southern Africa.

Argentina rugby remained pure and amateur longer than any other country's did. It was forbidden to have advertisements at grounds and the great Hugo Porta was in trouble for wearing a sponsor's jersey in a gimmick match on the snows of Patagonia. And so Argentinian players went abroad to earn money from playing. They went above all to Europe, mostly to France. Of the 22 to play at Newlands five play in Argentina - at least when they are not in South Africa, playing for the Pampas in the Vodacom Cup - and 14 play in France.

Not only were they paid but they also learnt the possibility of developing their game beyond muscular set pieces. Still that may not be obvious this weekend, not without clever Felipe Contepomi behind the scrum.

The battle up front will be a decisive one. Both sides have strong tight forwards; both will scrum and maul. In fact the Pumas probably have eight tight forwards and there just could be room for speed of Keegan Daniel to have a surprise-filled impact.

The match is at Newlands at the time of the wettest, coldest part of the winter but the weatherman has assured that there will be no rain on Saturday. It's a home ground but the Springboks do not play there all  that much, sad really as it is one of the great grounds of the world, the cradle of South African rugby.

Players to watch

For South Africa: You will watch Bryan Habana and François Steyn as men who can make and take chances of scoring; you will also watch Morné Steyn and François Hougaard in the hope that they will be better as both have so much talent and character. The Springbok loose trio of Keegan Daniel, Willem Alberts and  Marcell Coetzee are a combination of speed and strength which could be South Africa's chief weapon. And, of course, you will be constantly aware of Bismarck du Plessis with his calm, fearless skill, determination and strength.

For Argentina: Beyond the forwards, fullback Lucas González Amorosino of probably the Puma back most worth watching - fast, adventurous, deceptive. Five years ago you would have wanted to watch the man they called the magician, Juan Martín Hernández but he has had a miserable time since that joyous Puma World Cup in France in 2007. But the talent must still be there if he can but lift up his heart. He has not played Test rugby for three years. Santiago Fernández at inside centre had a good World Cup in 2011 and will require watching. And there are two nippy players in scrumhalf Nicolás Vergallo and left wing Horacio Agulla who plays for Bath. Amongst the forwards, watch Rodrigo Roncero, 35 years of age, playing his 50th Test and on the brink of retirement. He is one of the most penalised of international props but his expression of injured innocence deserves an Oscar. Naughty, but one of the characters of international rugby.

Head to head: The first big head-to-head is the basic one in Test rugby - front row against front row. Both sides have bulky front rows. (The Puma hooker  Eusebio Guiñazú is really a prop who has sailed the world in search of a contract.) And both front rows will be determined to get on top. The Pumas have two strong locks in Manuel Carizza and Patricio Albacete, both French based and they are up against fragile Andries Bekker and strong novice Eben Etzebeth who could become one of the stars of world rugby when he advances into his twenties. The centres could produce an interesting contest with the honours looking likely to going with the Springboks who have big, thrustful Frans Steyn on the inside and big, speedy Jean de Villiers on the outside. De Villiers and Habana are great snappers-up of unconsidered trifles. The same is true of combative François Hougaard, who will certainly be out there trying his very best.

Recent results
2008: South Africa won 63-9 in Johannesburg
2007: South Africa won 37-13 in Paris (World Cup)
2005: South Africa won 34-23 in Buenos Aires
2004: South Africa won 39-7 in Buenos Aires
2003: South Africa won  26-25 in Port Elizabeth

Prediction: History is there to be made. It happens every day. It could well be made at Newlands. After all the Pumas beat France a while ago. But our prediction is a Springbok victory by 20 points or more.

Teams


South Africa: 15 Zane Kirchner, 14 Bryan Habana, 13 Jean de Villiers (captain), 12 Frans Steyn, 11 Lwazi Mvovo, 10 Morné Steyn, 9 François Hougaard, 8 Keegan Daniel, 7 Willem Alberts, 6 Marcell Coetzee, 5 Andries Bekker, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Bismarck du Plessis, 1 Tendai Mtawarira.
Replacements: 16 Adriaan Strauss, 17 Pat Cilliers, 18 Flip van der Merwe, 19 Jacques Potgieter, 20 Ruan Pienaar, 21 Pat Lambie, 22 JJ Engelbrecht.

Argentina: 15 Lucas Amorosino, 14 Gonzalo Camacho, 13 Marcelo Bosch, 12 Santiago Fernández, 11 Horacio Agulla, 10 Juan Martín Hernández, 9 Nicolas Vergallo, 8 Juan Martín Fernández Lobbe (captain), 7 Álvaro Galindo, 6 Julio Cabello, 5 Patricio Albacete, 4 Manuel Carizza, 3 Juan Figallo, 2 Eusebio Guiñazu, 1 Rodrigo Roncero.
Replacements: 16 Bruno Postiglioni, 17 Marcos Ayerza, 18 Juan Pablo Orlandi, 19 Tomás Leonardi, 20 Leonardo Senatore, 21 Martín Landajo, 22 Martín Rodríguez.

Date: Saturday, 18 August 2012
Kick-off: 17.05 (15.05 GMT)
Venue: Newlands
Expected weather: Partly cloudy, no rain with a high of 18°C, dropping to 7°C
Referee: Steve Walsh (Australia)
Assistant referees: Jérôme Garces (France), John Lacey (Ireland)
TMO: Johann Meuwesen (South Africa)

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