Preview: Argentina v South Africa

Fri, 25 Aug 2017 06:34

RUGBY CHAMPIONSHIP ROUND TWO: rugby365's acclaimed writer Paul Dobson looks at the return match between Argentina and South Africa.

The Springboks should leap up to Salta with lots of confidence after their convincing 37-15 victory over the Pumas in Port Elizabeth last week.

They know they can beat the Argentinians; they have just done so.

They are used to playing at altitude, after all 11 of the starting XV are from the Highveld - where it is also cold on winter's nights.

Will overconfidence be their greatest enemy?

Before the Pumas played the Springboks, captain Agustín Creevy warned them that they were playing the best Springbok side in several years - a physically strong team that can play with the ball.

If his players did not believe him then, they will believe him now.

In particular they will want to shore up their scrummaging.

That was the most obvious facet of the game where the Springboks dominated. Three times the Boks so destroyed the Puma scrum that they - who had till recently outscrummed the world - were penalised at the set piece.

The Argentinians will not want to suffer such dishonour again, not in front of their own crowd, the rugged folk of the Andes.

Crowd support counts, it seems.

The players are not so engrossed that they do not hear them.

After Port Elizabeth, the Springboks praised the crowd for the way they carried them along.

There will not be much support for the Springboks amongst the 20,000 spectators in the Padre Ernesto Martearena on Saturday.

The support will all be for the Pumas and it will be rowdy. And they will expect a Puma victory.

After all the Springboks came from 16-28 down to win 33-31 when Morné Steyn goaled a penalty with three minutes to play at the same stadium back in 2014.

And then just last season, the Pumas pack battered the Springboks and their backs gave them a runaround. Yet the difference was only two points.

Only three Springboks who started in that 2016 defeat will start again in Salta this year - Elton Jantjies, Eben Etzebeth and Tendai Mtawarira.

It will be a different Springbok team - better prepared, better motivated and more cohesive, more likely not to be carried away by last week's winning margin, which is the second biggest in the six years of Rugby Championship encounters between the two countries.

The Pumas may also be better prepared. They have expressed their determination to stand up to the Springboks in the scrums. They have also made lots of changes.

The Springboks changed just one because of the injury to scrumhalf Ross Cronje. That suggests consistency which they hope will not translate into complacency.

The Pumas have made six changes to the starting team. Two have been forced by injuries to No.8 Leonardo Senatore and prop Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro. Both props have been changed and lock Guido Petti is out of the team altogether. With half the pack changed, they may well be hoping that they will get more and better ball than they did last week.

The changes may not work, of course, but then history tells us that just a week can have a huge impact on rugby fortunes. Remember 1982?

In Pretoria the Springboks beat the Jaguars (the Pumas by another name) 50-18. For the second Test the Springboks kept the same team, while the Jaguars made four changes. The Jaguars won 21-12.

Taking for granted does not work. Beware history's repetitive tendencies.

The Pumas may also change tactics and use Joaquín Tuculet and Juan Martín Hernández to kick, give the Springboks the runaround and make them jittery. It's worked for them before.

*By the way, if you see a team playtng in red, they are the Springboks. It's not that they are blushing or in disguise. It is for some celebration of the poltically acceptable  unification process in South African rugby. How choosing a colour none of those unifying national entities used is an expression of that unifying is not obvious.

Players to watch:

For Argentina: Joaquín Tuculet, Emiliano Boffelli, Juan Martín Hernández and lively Tomás Cubelli, one of the best scrumhalves in the world.

For South Africa: Energetic Francois Mostert, bustling Jaco Kriel, powerful Malcolm Marx, reborn Coenraad Oosthuizen and the exciting back three who had things more or less their own way last week. And then there is Jan Serfontein, who several times seemed on the edge of a break-through last week.

Head to head: The most obvious confrontation will be pack against pack in the scrums, front row against front row. Pablo Matera versus Jaco Kriel - strong, fearless, aggressive men. Emiliano Boffelli versus Raymond Rhule - speed on the wings.

Recent results:
2017: South Africa 37-15, Port Elizabeth
2016: Argentina won 26-24, Salta
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, Johannesburg

Results in the Rugby Championship
2012: Argentina and South Africa drew 16-all, Mendoza
2012: South Africa won 27-6, Cape Town
2013: South Africa won 22-17, Mendoza
2013: South Africa won 73-13, Johannesburg
2014: South Africa won 13-6, Pretoria
2014: South Africa won 33-31, Salta
2015: Argentina won 37-25, Durban
2015: South Africa won 26-12, Buenos Aires
2016: Argentina won 26-24, Salta
2016: South Africa won 30-23, Nelspruit

Prediction: South Africa last week extended their record against Argentina to 22 wins from 25 games (with a draw and two defeats) in what was their biggest win against the Pumas since 2013. The Pumas will be searching for back-to-back wins against the Springboks on home soil after a 26-24 victory when they hosted them in August 2016. Argentina have lost four of their last five games on home soil, although their one win in that run came in their most recent such fixture - a 45-29 win against Georgia. Argentina need just 13 more for their 500th point scored against South Africa at Test level. South Africa have won their last four games in a row, they've not won more on the bounce since a run of eight straight wins from 2013 to 2014. However, the Springboks haven't won away from home since beating Argentina 24-13 at the Rugby World Cup, losing six road fixtures since then. Argentina conceded 12 penalties in last week's game against South Africa, more than any other team at the opening round of The Rugby Championship 2017. South Africa missed just 20 tackles in their Round 1 win against Argentina, fewer than any of the other three teams across the weekend. Tomas Lavanini made 15 tackles at the opening round, the equal most of any player who didn't miss a single attempt (Kieran Read, 15). Eben Etzebeth and Agustin Creevy each won three turnovers last weekend, more than any other player across the competition. It's too easy to be nervous. This is a smiling band of friend and so we expect the Springboks to win by 10 points or even more. As Agustín Creevy said: 'They are the best Springboks team for some time.'


Argentina: 15 Joaquín Tuculet, 14 Ramiro Moyano, 13 Matías Orlando, 12 Jerónimo de la Fuente, 11 Emiliano Boffelli, 10 Juan Martín Hernández, 9 Tomás Cubelli, 8 Juan Manuel Leguizamón, 7 Tomás Lezana, 6 Pablo Matera, 5 Tomás Lavanini, 4 Matías Alemanno, 3 Ramiro Herrera, 2 Agustín Creevy (captain), 1 Lucas Noguera.
Replacements: 16 Julián Montoya, 17 Santiago García Botta, 18 Enrique Pieretto, 19 Marcos Kremer, 20 Javier Ortega Desio, 21 Martín Landajo, 22 Nicolás Sánchez, 23 Matías Moroni.

South Africa: 15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Raymond Rhule, 13 Jesse Kriel, 12 Jan Serfontein, 11 Courtnall Skosan, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Francois Hougaard, 8 Zaire Cassiem, 7 Jaco Kriel, 6 Siya Kolisi, 5 Franco Mostert, 4 Eben Etzebeth (captain), 3 Coenraad Oosthuizen, 2 Malcolm Marx, 1 Tendai Mtawarira.
Replacements: 16 Mbongeni Mbonambi, 17 Steven Kitshoff, 18 Trevor Nyakane, 19 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 20 Jean-Luc du Preez, 21 Rudy Paige, 22 Curwin Bosch, 23 Damian de Allende.

Date: Saturday, 26 August 2017
Venue: Estadio Padre Ernesto Martearena, Salta
Kick-off: 16.40 (21.40 SA time; 19.40 GMT)
Expected weather: Partly cloudy and warm. It will be 24°C at kick-off.
Referee: Pascal Gaüzère (France)
Assistant referees: Romain Poite (France), Nic Berry (Australia)
TMO: Glenn Newman (New Zealand)

By Paul Dobson

* Statistics provided by Opta Sports


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