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Rugby Championship Live
Argentina Puma vs South Africa Springboks
Venue: Estadio Malvinas Argentinas, Mendoza
Kick-off: 16.10 (19.10 GMT)
Referee: Steve Walsh (Australia)
Assistant referees:John Lacey (Ireland), Pascal Gauzère (France)
Argentina have it all to prove after last week’s hammering at the hands of the Springboks as they head to Mendoza.
What do you do after a being on the receiving end of a 60-point hammering? If you’re Santiago Phelan you change a third of your team and look to prop up your tight five – probably a good move.
Given how the Pumas struggled last week, it’s no surprise that there is a total reshuffle in the second row while Marcos Ayerza comes into the front row after shaking off an injury. Phelan’s men were poor at set piece time, losing three line-outs on their own throw and winning just one of four scrums on their feed.
It’s impossible to build any kind of a platform from such dismal set pieces, and the home side will know this area has to improve.
Speaking after last week’s match, centre Marcelo Bosch said that his team were “totally broken by South Africa in all sectors of the game, a lot in attack, in defence, in strategy, in the drive.”
From this point of view it’s hard to think that the Pumas can’t improve. They really were that bad in the opener.
Inspiration on the pitch is in short supply, but will the 23rd man, the crowd, be able to make any difference? The fans in Mendoza certainly created a hostile atmosphere when the two teams met last year and they’ll be looking to infuse the same passion into their men this time around.
The capitulation in Soweto is not a performance that is characteristic of the Pumas; in recent years they’ve been a proud nation that fights to the end. One can only hope that they rediscover this fighting quality in time to prevent another one-sided clash.
Matters are somewhat easier for Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer who has picked an unchanged starting XV, with the only alteration coming on the bench where the unavailable Fourie du Preez is replaced by Jano Vermaak.
The praise for the Springboks following their victory in Soweto has been unanimous, and rightly so. After a slow opening stanza they flourished, maintaining a structured game while at the same time injecting thrust and flair through the likes of Willie le Roux and JJ Engelbrecht, the kick and chase tactics a thing of the past.
The Springboks will be wary of a Pumas backlash and they cannot afford to sit back and think that the match will take care of itself – no away game is easy in the Rugby Championship and this is illustrated by the fact that the Boks failed to win on foreign soil in the competition’s first year and have not won away from home in the Tri-Nations since they claimed the title in 2009.
Indeed, there will be no room for complacency in Mendoza. Rugby can be a cruel game and Meyer will be looking to avoid being on the wrong end of one of the biggest turnarounds in the game’s history.
However, such an occurrence is unlikely purely based on the strength of the South Africans in all areas. Any weak links that may have appeared in previous seasons looked ironed out in Soweto and the challenge for the Springboks will be to maintain an all-round game rather than return to their conservative roots.
Ones to watch: If there was one man who didn’t stand out during the Boks opening demolition act it was Bjorn Basson. In a match that featured nine tries you would expect the winger to have got his name on the scoresheet or at least come close, but instead the Bulls man was anonymous, making a measly 13 metres in the entire game. There is no room for passengers if the Springboks are going to challenge the best in the game and Basson needs to show he has something to offer.
With the Pumas scrum a shambles in Soweto, the return to fitness of Marcos Ayerza couldn’t have come at a better time for the men from Argentina. The 30-year-old will need to steady the ship against a powerful Springbok front row if the Pumas are to have the front-foot ball they so badly need.
Head-to-head: Martín Landajo v Ruan Pienaar Pienaar did very little wrong a week ago, dishing out one of his better performances in a Springbok jersey, yet he was outshone by Fourie du Preez’s brilliant cameo. The number nine’s control of proceedings is key for the Springboks and Pienaar will be wanting to make a firm statement of intent. In contrast, Landajo was poor last time out, kicking away valuable possession and struggling to get the Pumas back-line going under heavy pressure. He’ll need to be slicker in Mendoza in order to get the home side up and running.
Prediction: The Springboks won’t have the run of the park as they did last time out, but their all-round game will be enough to secure victory by ten points.
Argentina: 15 L Amorosino, 14 G Camacho, 13 M Bosch, 12 F Contepomi, 11 H Agulla, 10 N Sanchez, 9 M Landajo, 1 M Ayerza, 2 E Guinazu, 3 J Figallo, 4 J Cabello, 5 M Galarza, 6 P Matera, 7 JM Leguizamon, 8 L Senatore
Replacements: 16 A Creevy, 17 N Lobo, 18 T Lavaninni, 19 B Macome, 20 T Cubelli, 21 S Fernandez, 22 J Imhoff
South Africa: 15 W le Roux, 14 B Basson, 13 JJ Engelbrecht, 12 J de Villiers (c), 11 B Habana, 10 M Steyn, 9 R Pienaar, 8 D Vermeulen, 7 W Alberts, 6 F Louw, 5 J Kruger, 4 E Etzebeth, 3 J du Plessis, 2 A Strauss, 1 T Mtawarira.
Replacements: 16 B du Plessis, 17 G Steenkamp, 18 C Oosthuizen, 19 F Van Der Merwe, 20 S Kolisi, 21 J Vermaak, 22 P Lambie, 23 J Serfontein
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