Preview: Argentina v South Africa
RUGBY CHAMPIONSHIP ROUND THREE: They love the Springboks in Argentina but that, it seems, spurs the Pumas on.
It is akin to the desire of the younger brother to get one over his older brother.
One thing is certain, they are not going to step aside and let older brother take the Rugby Championship this year.
Not that the Pumas could win the championship, but they could win some honour.
That is important to them, if there is truth in the passion with which they burst forth with the last lines of their anthem:
Coronados de gloria vivamos
O juremos con gloria morir!
Let’s live, crowned in glory, or let’s swear to die with glory.
There would be much satisfaction in beating the Springboks, even if they would also be pleased if the Springboks won the competition ahead of the All Blacks and the Wallabies.
The Argentinian love and respect for the Springboks has a foundation in history.
In days when rugby in Argentina was keen to get past its baby steps, South Africa sent teams to play there – Junior Springboks and Gazelles.
When Argentina first wanted to take its team abroad, they went to South Africa, got to be called the Pumas and gleefully beat the Junior Springboks.
Then they disguised themselves as Jaguares and helped to keep the Springboks alive in the 1980s, in the process proving their own worth.
But with the bright dawn of democracy in South Africa and the acceptance of the Springboks into world rugby, South Africa headed for Argentina in 1993 for the first official Test against Los Pumas.
Now they have played 28 times, 14 times in Argentina.
And now we know that, apart from many close shaves, the Pumas have beaten their older brother/teacher three times – twice in inland cities, one of them Salta.
The Springboks would much rather be in Buenos Aires, with its shops and night life, a big, calm city. Instead they are up in Salta, nearly 1 500 km away.
The Springboks lost there in 2016 and South Africa was horrified.
There are Springboks set to run out onto the field in Salta, who would still feel the bruising of that defeat – Jesse Kriel Damian de Allende, Francois de Klerk, Francois Louw, Eben Etzebeth and Tendai Mtawarira.
They could spur their teammates on to avoid the Salta trap.
There are several Pumas back from that glorious triumph – Santiago Cordero, Nicolás Sánchez, Tomás Cubelli, Facundo Isa, Javier Ortega Desio, Pablo Matera, Guido Petti, Matías Alemanno, Agustín Creevy, Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro, Julian Montoya and Joaquín Tuculet.
Strangely, the Springbok camp seems low key about winning this championship, because their eyes are looking beyond it to the World Cup.
But having a bird in hand has ever been a wise thing and being the champions of the Southern Hemisphere is not far from being the champions of the world in any case.
If the Springboks want to win the Rugby Championship – want not would like, they will know exactly what is required of them as the Perth match kicks off 10 hours earlier than this one in Salta.
The All Blacks and the Wallabies found in this competition that the Pumas are no push-overs.
The Springboks will have the same experience – a clash with tough men, who are not without creativity.
Players to Watch
For Argentina: The modern Pumas may not scrum as well as in the past but they create far better try-scoring opportunities than their predecessors did. The Pumas back three – Emiliano Boffelli, Santiago Cordero and Ramiro Moyano have verve and strength and they have clever, forceful Jerónimo de la Fuente in side of them and the excellent Tomás Cubelli to set it off, one of the world’s best scrumhalves. They have a good pack of forwards in which powerful relentless Pablo Matera and wily Agustín Creevy, who makes walking look so difficult but is so effective when he goes into action, stand out.
For South Africa: After the recent match against the All Blacks, there will be a frisson of excitement when the ball is going the way of Cheslin Kolbe, a game-changer as he proved in Wellington. There is a noticeable difference in height between the Springbok flanks, Pieter-Steph du Toit and Kwagga Smith, but it is what they have in common that counts – their explosive and unceasing energy and their fearlessness in confrontation will be seen.
Head to Head
The Springbok front row could be a trump card against the brittle Los Pumas – Tendai Mtawarira, Mbongeni Mbonambi and Trevor Nyakane against Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro, Agustín Creevy and Juan Figallo. There could well be a great tussle for the loose ball with the three loose forwards and the hookers on both sides involved. When he comes off the bench, Francois Louw’s intervention would be telling. The four halfbacks will have their own battle – flyhalf against flyhalf, Handré Pollard versus Nicolás Sánchez, and the scrumhalves always have a battle, smooth Tomás Cubelli against spur-of-the-moment Francois de Klerk who may find better use for his left boot than he did in Wellington, a brave man who can turn a game.
Prediction: Argentina will be on the hunt for back-to-back wins against South Africa for the first time, after picking up a 32-19 win in their last encounter. Two of the previous three games between Argentina and South Africa at Estadio Padre Ernesto Martearena in Salta have been decided by a margin of just two points. However, South Africa ran out to a 41-23 win in their most recent encounter there. South Africa’s last seven Tests on the road have all been decided by a single-figure margin. The Springboks’ results have been evenly split during that run, winning three, losing three and drawing once. Argentina’s only victory in their last 10 Tests on home soil came against South Africa (25 August 2018). South Africa have lost just one of their last five matches in The Rugby Championship (with three wins and draw), scoring 30 points or more three times in that span. Argentina have conceded 14 penalties in The Rugby Championship this year, the fewest of any team. South Africa have scored the most tries (six) of any team in The Rugby Championship, twice as many as any other side in the tournament. Argentina have made the most offloads (26) of any team in this year’s Rugby Championship and double the amount of South Africa, who have made the fewest (13). Herschel Jantjies (South Africa) is the only player in the Rugby Championship to have scored multiple tries (three) so far, yet the scrumhalf has made just seven carries. Guido Petti Pagadizaval (Argentina) has won 12 line-outs (including two steals), the most of any player and the only one to have already reached double figures
Paul Dobson’s prediction: The Pumas ran the All Blacks close in Buenos Aires when they lost by four points and Wallabies in Brisbane when they lost by six points. They could make life hard for the Springboks but we still believe that the Springboks will win by 12 points or more, but that the bonus point may elude them. Winning the Rugby Championship may well be decided in Perth.
Argentina: 15 Emiliano Boffelli, 14 Santiago Cordero, 13 Matías Moroni, 12 Jerónimo de la Fuente, 11 Ramiro Moyano, 10 Nicolás Sánchez, 9 Tomás Cubelli, 8 Facundo Isa, 7 Javier Ortega Desio, 6 Pablo Matera, 5 Marcos Kremer, 4 Matías Alemanno, 3 Juan Figallo, 2 Agustín Creevy, 1 Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro.
Replacements: 16 Julian Montoya, 17 Mayco Vivas, 18 Santiago Medrano, 19 Guido Petti, 20 Tomás Lezana, 21 Gonzalo Bertranou, 22 Benjamin Urdapilleta, 23 Joaquín Tuculet.
South Africa: 15 Willie le Roux, 14 Cheslin Kolbe, 13 Lukhanyo Am, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Makazole Mapimpi, 10 Handré Pollard, 9 Francois de Klerk, 8 Duane Vermeulen (captain),7 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 6 Kwagga Smith, 5 Franco Mostert, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Trevor Nyakane, 2 Mbongeni Mbonambi, 1 Tendai Mtawarira.
Replacements: 16 Malcolm Marx, 17 Steven Kitshoff, 18 Frans Malherbe, 19 Rudolph Snyman, 20 Francois Louw, 21 Herschel Jantjies, 22 Frans Steyn, 23 Jesse Kriel
Date: Saturday, 10 August 2019
Venue: Estadio Padre Ernesto Martearena, Salta
Kick-off: 16.40 (19.40 GMT; 21.40 SA time)
Expected weather: Sunny, pleasantly warm and then bitterly cold with a high of 20°, dropping to 0°.
Referee: Romain Poite (France)
Assistant referees: Matthew Carley (England), Karl Dickson (England)
TMO: Rowan Kitt (England)
By Paul Dobson
* Statistics provided by Opta Sport