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Rugby Championship: Argentina v South Africa Preview
The Springboks will be looking to make it back to back wins over Argentina when the two sides lock horns in Salta late on Saturday evening.
It was far from convincing but the ‘Boks managed to get their 2016 Rugby Championship campaign off to a winning start out in Nelspruit last week. They will need a much-improved performance, this time around, as they are taking on the Argentines in the pressure cooker that is the Estadio Padre Ernesto Martearena.
Argentina v South Africa | Saturday 27 August | Estadio Padre Ernesto Martearena | 21:40
To Win (80 Mins)
Argentina 5/4 | Draw 22/1 | South Africa 13/20
Argentina (+2.5) 9/10 | South Africa (-2.5) 9/10
I don’t know what it is but Argentine rugby sides seem exceedingly more dangerous when they don’t have their full quota on the field. Having conceded an early try, the Pumas hit back through a penalty of their own with points scoring machine Nicolas Sanchez popping a penalty over from right in front of the poles.
The Argentines, who had been unnervingly disciplined up to this point, then went down to 14 men with the lock Manuel Monteiro getting sent for a ten-minute spell in the naughty chair for a tip on Damien de Allende at a ruck.
While most teams opt to become more conservative and attempt to kill time when they go a man down, the Argentines were having none of it. A quick counter attack saw the Pumas move the ball into South Africa’s half. A quick recycle and some brilliant hands put Matias Orlando into space down the touchline. The outside centre outstripped the cover defence to touch down in the corner. Sanchez stepped up and converted to hand Argentina an unlikely three point lead as the teams went into the sheds.
The Pumas got the second half off to an ideal start with Springbok winger Bryan Habana conceding a penalty and getting sent off for an accidental challenge on an airborne Joaquin Tuculet. While the veteran winger was a bit unlucky having slipped into the challenge, the IRB’s mandate on stamping dangerous challenges out of the game meant the flying winger was always going to see a card.
The Argentines were unable to make the most of their man advantage with the ‘Boks opening up the second half scoring through an Elton Janjties penalty. Nicolas Sanchez would then put the Pumas back into the lead with a 64th-minute penalty.
A moment of brilliance from Sanchez would saw the Argentines extend their lead by a further seven points. A masterful Sanchez chip, in behind the ‘Boks defensive line, saw Santiago Cordero run in unabated. The converted try extended the Argentines’ lead to 10 points with only 14 minutes left in the game.
Atthis point, it looked like the Pumas were about to claim their second victory over the South Africans in space of twelve months. It wasn’t to be, however, as the Boks, inspired by Faf de Klerk, finally got their act together to cross over for two late tries and steal victory from the grasp of their opponents.
While Argentina head coach Daniel Hourcade will be somewhat upset with his side’s inability to hold onto their lead, I fully believe that if you had offered him a losing bonus point prior to kick-off he would have taken it without hesitation. His players will have also gained a lot of confidence from last Saturday’s performance with the ghosts of the Jaguares now fully exercised after such a solid display.
There’s not much team news coming out of the Argentine camp at the moment but I suspect they’ll field a very similar starting XV to the one that took to the Mbombela Stadium last weekend.
For the second time this year, the Bok’s managed to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat with a late second half blitz. The catalyst for this late surge was diminutive nine Faf de Klerk.
With the ‘Boks trailing by 10 points and only 10 minutes remaining on the board, the Jack Russel of a scrumhalf snipped from the base of dominant South African scrum, drew four defenders onto him and then performed a perfectly timed switch which sent Johan Goosen in for a try.
The Lions man was again integral in build up to the try that secured the South Africans victory. With the scores locked at 23-23, de Klerk threw a bullet pass to Eben Ethizebeth. The Stormers lock then fed Bryan Habana who drew a defender and the offloaded to Warren Whiteley, who stepped inside and dotted down in the corner to ensure the ‘Boks got their 2016 Rugby Championship campaign off to a winning start.
While a comeback victory always goes down well in the pubs and at braais in the minutes after it occurred, it’s hard not to feel slightly worried by the Springboks performance, especially after witnessing what New Zealand did to Australia.
There were some positives, particularly the performance of the returning Oupa Mohaje. The Free State flanker added a bit more physicality to the South African loose trio, although, the form of his partner in crime, Francois Louw, is still worrying. The former Western Province man has seemed off the pace this whole year which is not to be unexpected when you consider how many injuries he’s sustained over the past 12 months.
Another area of concern was Johan Goosen’s fielding of the highball. The former Free State pivot didn’t exactly look at home as the last line of defence. While he entered the line beautifully on attack, his two fumbles from Argentine 'up and unders' don’t fill me with confidence heading into this week’s clash in Salta.
In terms of team news, the ‘Boks will be without Lions prop Julian Redelinghuys. The Lions tighthead was forced off with a hamstring issue in Nelspruit and is likely to miss the remainder of the Rugby Championship. Redelinghuys’ starting berth is likely to be taken by Saracens-bound Vicent Koch.
I can’t see Coetzee making any further changes to his squad as much as I’d love to see Jaco Kriel come in for Francois Louw.
Stats That Matter
The Springboks have never lost in Argentina with their worst result being a 16-16 draw in 2012. This will be the 24th meeting between the two sides and the second at the Estadio Padre Ernesto Martearena. The previous clash at the ground was a tight affair with the ‘Boks winning by two points back in 2014.
Verdict: Argentina 5/4
This is the smallest handicap that I can recall for a South Africa versus Argentina game. Like the bookies, I think this one is going to be as tight as a duck's backside. It's a game I'd avoid having a punt on to be honest but if I was to have a flutter, I'd be putting R50 rand on an Argentine victory at 5/4.