Boks ready to make 'brave calls'
RUGBY CHAMPIONSHIP SPOTLIGHT: The Springboks have their sights trained firmly on the World Cup.
That, in a nutshell, was the message from South African assistant coach Matt Proudfoot ahead of their final match of the tournament.
South Africa have not won a SANZAAR tournament since 2009, when the Boks claimed the Tri-Nations title.
Now, a decade later, they are on the cusp of winning the Rugby Championship for the first time.
However, the focus in their encounters with Argentina in the next fortnight – in Salta on Saturday and Pretoria a week later – will be on the global showpiece starting in Japan in September.
Proudfoot said that they are looking at the bigger picture and will be using the encounters with Los Pumas to find some answers to any lingering questions.
“We understand the challenges of playing in Salta,” he said of a venue where they have struggled in the past.
“We know it will be another big challenge for us on Saturday.”
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He hinted that the Boks may experiment with their selections this week, instead of going all out for the win.
“We will be making some brave calls this week – as we did against Australia [in Round One] and New Zealand [Round Two], as we prepare for this very important Pumas challenge.
“We understand the challenge of the game, having lost in Mendoza last year.”
The Boks have won in two of their three previous trips to Salta – winning 33-31 in 2014, losing 24-26 in 2016 and winning 41-23 in 2017.
“We are well aware of the challenge that the Pumas pose when you play them at home.”
The Springboks assembled Buenos Aires at the weekend, after completing a week of training in Auckland, New Zealand.
The Springboks have a one-point advantage over the All Blacks at the top of the Rugby Championship standings after a bonus-point win over the Wallabies in Johannesburg and a thrilling comeback draw with New Zealand in Wellington.
Proudfoot said the South Africans have their feet firmly planted on the ground, and they will not get ahead of themselves as they build towards Saturday’s third and final Rugby Championship clash of the year.
A Springbok win in hostile away conditions will be a big incentive for the team.
“We would like to win the game, but our focus is to just continue with the momentum we built [against the Wallabies and All Blacks] and preparing for the World Cup,” said Proudfoot.
“All four teams in the Rugby Championship are scrambling for momentum at the moment, to try and pick up some momentum before we go to the World Cup.
“We have this week and next week Argentina travel to South Africa, so I think it is two nice weeks where the two of us can pick up momentum, and use the opportunities to test the depth in our squads and our strategies before the World Cup.”
Having arriving arrived in two groups in Buenos Aires, Bok coach Rassie Erasmus will announce the Springbok team on Wednesday.