Preview: Argentina v South Africa

Fri, 26 Aug 2016 07:12

RUGBY CHAMPIONSHIP, ROUND TWO: And so to Salta, a long leap for the teams from Nelspruit last Saturday to the foot of the Andes this Saturday.

They move from support at the grand Mbombela Stadium to the inevitable animosity of an inland Argentinian time.

This time, the passionate support will be for the Pumas.

Salta is about 1,500 kilometres north-west of Buenos Aires, near the Andes - which form a natural border between Argentina and Chile.

The city is over 400 years old and should suit South Africa's Highvelders for it is high, dry and warm.

It is nearly as high above sea level as Bloemfontein is.

Argentina's inland towns all have a keen rugby following - Mendoza, Córdoba, much feared Tucumán and Salta.

Soccer rules, but rugby is not far behind.

The Pumas and the Springboks will meet at the Estádio Padre Ernesto Martearena, which seats just over 20 000 spectators and is named for a Catholic priest who cared greatly for the poor.

Two years ago, almost to the day, the Springboks and the Pumas met in Salta.

The week before they played at Loftus in Pretoria and the Springboks won 13-6. In Salta, the Pumas led for all but three minutes of the second. With three minutes to play cool Morné Steyn kicked the penalty goal which gave the visitors a 33-31 victory.

There are some Springboks back in Salta for this encounter - Bryan Habana, who scored a try, Damian de Allende, Morné Steyn, Francois Louw, Lodewyk de Jager, Eben Etzebeth, Adriaan Strauss and Tendai Mtawarira.

The Pumas who are back again are Joaquín Tuculet, Manuel Montero and Tomás Cubelli, the three who scored tries, Juan Martín Hernández, Nicolás Sánchez, Martín Landajo, Juan Manuel Leguizamón, Pablo Matera, Tomás Lavanini, Matías Alemanno, Ramiro Herrera, Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro, Lucas Amorosino and Agustín Creevy who was the captain that day as well, his first time as the team's captain.

The Pumas will know that they can beat the Springboks, as they did last year in Durban.

They believe that they should have won in Nelspruit and that they will have Salta on their side this weekend.

The Springboks know that, although the going is usually tough, they have usually beaten the Pumas and can do so again

The teams are not much changed.

The Springboks brought in Vincent Koch to tighthead because of Julian Redelinghuys's hamstring and Lourens Adriaanse onto the bench in Koch's place. The only other change was dropping Jan de Jongh off the bench to bring on the steadying influence and massive boot of Morné Steyn.

The only change to the Pumas is on the bench where experienced, versatile Lucas González Amorosino returns.

It will be interesting to see of the Springboks can show greater cohesion after last week and if their wings can actually get a pass from the centres.

It will be interesting to see if the enterprising Puma backs can crack the Springbok defence.

Players to Watch:

For Argentina: The Puma game-breakers - adventurous Joaquín Tuculet and deceptive Santiago Cordero, along with the halfbacks Nicolás Sánchez and Martín Landajo. In the pack, it is above all stringy Facundo Isa, a 22-year-old in his third season of Test rugby. And will Tomás Lavanini play and behave this time; last week he behaved.

For South Africa: Francois de Klerk will be all over the field, and Ruan Combrink will be energetic and effective. Johan Goosen could be an attacking force and South Africa will hope fervently that Elton Jantjies will give full expression to his many talents. The arrival of Pieter-Steph du Toit and Jaco Kriel from the bench will whet appetites.

Head to Head: There will be a strong clash between the two packs of forwards at set pieces, especially the scrums, as well as mauls and breakdowns. There will be no place to hide amongst the forwards. Isa Facundo versus Warren Whiteley - direct and strong against skilled and energetic. Francois de Klerk versus Martín Landajo and then Tomás Cubelli - three lively scrumhalves, capable of creating havoc amongst the opponents.

Recent results
2016: South Africa won 30-23, Nelspruit
2015: South Africa won 24-13, London (World Cup, third-place play-off)
2015: South Africa won 26-12, Buenos Aires
2015: Argentina won 37-25, Durban
2014: South Africa won 33-31, Salta
2014: South Africa won 13-6, Pretoria
2013: South Africa won 22-17, Mendoza
2013: South Africa won 73-13, Soweto
2012: South Africa won 27-6, Cape Town
2012: Argentina and South Africa drew 16-all, Mendoza

Statistical review: Argentina have won two of their four games at Padre Ernesto Martearena Stadium. However, both defeats have come in their most recent two games there including a 31-33 defeat against the Springboks in 2014. South Africa are yet to lose away to Argentina having won 10 and drawn one of their 11 trips to face the Pumas, despite trailing at half-time in three of the last five such fixtures. South Africa won their last away game - against Argentina. However, they had lost five of their seven away Tests before that. Argentina have lost their last two games, they've not lost three games in a row since 2014 when they lost eight on the trot. Argentina lost their last home game 0-27 against France, the first time they had failed to score a single point in a home game since 1952 (v Ireland XV) and the first time at any venue since 2000 (v England). South Africa need only two more for their 100th try to be scored against Argentina. Against only three other nations (Australia, New Zealand, Wales) have they managed to hit triple-digits. Argentina's next drop-goal will be their 100th. Seven other nations have hit a century of drops so far - with South Africa just ahead of them on 102. Argentina have won only once against South Africa, only against New Zealand (0) have they won fewer games amongst teams they've faced at least 10 times. Santiago Cordero added a seventh try to his Test tally in the opening round of the tournament; every one of his Test tries has been scored outside of Argentina. Bryan Habana has played 13 games against the Pumas, scoring seven tries in the process, more than any other South African player in both categories.

Prediction: Not easy, especially the way the Springboks came back with 17 points in the last 10 minutes. Maybe they are fitter than the Pumas or maybe it is the real character of the team boiling over. So we will predict another comeback and a Springbok victory by about five points.

By Paul Dobson

* Statistic provided by Opta Sport

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