South Africa vs Argentina | Saturday 08 August | Kings Park | 17:05
The Rugby Championship’s two also-rans will close out this year’s abbreviated tournament in Durban this weekend. Both teams are without a win in the competition but it will be the South Africans who feel the more disenchanted with this year’s campaign. For Los Pumas, the campaign has gone according to script. For Meyer’s side, the script has tended to encompass a twist. South Africa will have to put the previous few weeks of late drama behind them as Los Pumas will be ready to capitalise on any signs of Springbok nerves, however if the men donning the green and gold perform to their capabilities it may be Puma on the menu at Kings Park. This should prove to be an entertaining encounter that offers more value for the punter than one would expect.
To Win (80mins)
South Africa 1/12
South Africa (-18.5) 9/10
Argentina (+18.5) 9/10
The Springboks have seemed to suffer from a split personality disorder akin to that of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. They have been brilliant when they’ve kept ball in hand, mainly during the first sixty minutes of their matches; the last quarter has been a different story though. Poor decision making, misplaced kicks out of hand and some appallingly inaccurate throws to the tail of the line-out have cost Meyer’s charges dearly. They will want to rectify these errors this coming weekend, as well as rounding off the prep work for England. With World Cup preparations at the forethought, the return of some of the addled elder statesmen is perfectly timed. The inclusion of Jean De Villiers in the starting fifteen will provide some vastly needed experience to a backline that has been culpable of producing moments of indecision and panic.
De Villiers will partner Province teammate Damian De Allende in the midfield, whilst Jesse Kriel switches to the right wing. The other returnee to the run on fifteen is Marcel Coetzee; he starts in a somewhat unorthodox but formidable looking loose trio alongside Schalk Burger and Heinrich Brussow. The bench also sees a couple of forgotten faces return to the fold in the form of injury plagued Sharks youngster Pieter-Steph du Toit and Stormers flanker Siya Kolisi. Although it is a bit disappointing to see Kriel switch to the wing after some impressive performances in the outside centre berth, it will be interesting to see how he gets on down the right touchline. It will also be fascinating to see if the Coetzee, Brussow and Burger loose trio combination can give Heyneke Meyer some food for thought with under fifty days to go to the World Cup.
Where the Springboks have been their own worst enemies the Argentines have made life easier for themselves. Daniel Hourcade showed a lot of intelligence by selecting a weakened side to travel to New Zealand. His decision to field players on the periphery of the starting fifteen allowed him to assess how much depth his squad contains and which of these fringe players can cut the mustard in a high intensity Test. He also used the game in Canterbury as well as the one in Mendoza against the Australians to perfect both the scrum and lineout drive. Although both matches ended in heavy defeats, he will be pleased with the efforts thus far, in particular his pack’s endeavors in the aforementioned set pieces.
Hourcade is yet to name his side at the time of writing but I suspect there will be one or two changes as he looks to fine tune his squad. Expect Agustin Creevy and his forward compatriots to give the South African pack a stern test. Another man who could make an impact on Saturday is winger come fullback Juan Imhoff. The racing Metro man is yet to make his mark in this year’s tournament but could prove a threat if given any space by the Springbok defensive line. Hourcade’s men face the biggest test to their scrum and lineout this weekend with the ‘Bok pack being masters of shutting the rolling maul down before it gains momentum. Although the lineout duel should prove to be intriguing, the battle of the bulk at scrum time will have those who appreciate the dark arts and seedy underworld of the front rows licking their lips in anticipation.
VERDICT: South Africa (-18.5) 9/10
Although this game won’t go far towards redemption for the late shambles that occurred against the Aussies and Kiwis, the Springboks can at least restore a bit of pride with a big win. The Argentines won’t be pushovers though and Meyer’s men are going to have to remain focused for the full eighty minutes. If they maintain their discipline and focus, the home team should canter past the -18.5 margin.