South Africa v Argentina - Teams and Prediction
RUGBY CHAMPIONSHIP, ROUND SIX: The 2022 edition of the Rugby Championship has been an intriguing one and it will go down to the wire in Durban on Saturday.
For the Springboks, it’s a shot at the title. For the Pumas, a shot at their own piece of history.
South Africa have a chance of stealing the Rugby Championship in the final game of an ultra-tight tournament against Argentina on Saturday, although it’ll likely require way more than just a regulation win for the Boks at Kings Park.
Their hopes of adding a Southern Hemisphere crown to a British and Irish Lions series victory last year depend on old rivals New Zealand.
The All Blacks lead the Rugby Championship from South Africa on points difference and face Australia in their final-round game earlier the same day at the Eden Park fortress where New Zealand haven’t lost since 1994, when rugby was still in its amateur era.
The Springboks will have about six hours after the end of the All Blacks-Wallabies to digest what they need to do.
If NZ win with a bonus point it could leave the world champions needing a thumping victory over the Pumas at Kings Park to claw back the points difference and snatch the title.
“It is all or nothing for us this week, and we have a team with several players who have won the Rugby World Cup and the British and Irish Lions series,” Springboks coach Jacques Nienaber said.
“So they know it will take nothing less than a quality 80-minute effort to win this match and the competition.”
Five points – a bonus-point win – separates top from bottom in the championship standings ahead of the final weekend and all four teams have mathematical chances of being crowned champions.
While New Zealand are expected to beat Australia, a Wallaby surprise in Auckland would even put last-placed Argentina back in the frame to claim their first Rugby Championship title, although they would need to rack up points against South Africa.
That’s an outside possibility, and something Pumas coach Michael Cheika wasn’t really entertaining in Durban.
Aussie Cheika, the former Australia coach, said he would obviously be rooting for the Wallabies in front of the TV in South Africa in the morning.
But he saw his new team’s final game of this championship in its own right as a chance to lay down another mark for Argentina rugby.
The Pumas have pushed on to new heights this season by recording a dominant home win over Australia and stunning the All Blacks in New Zealand.
Consistency has been a problem again and from there Argentina lost a second game in New Zealand 3-53 and went down 20-36 to South Africa at home last weekend.
But victory in Durban this Saturday would still give the Pumas wins over all three Southern Hemisphere powers for the first time in the same Rugby Championship.
“I don’t want to go bigger picture here, I just want to say here’s an opportunity for us in Durban against the world champions, a chance to take,” Cheika said.
“You gotta go there and try and take it.”
Cheika has made two backline changes to the team that started last weekend with centre Matias Moroni and 34-year-old wing Juan Imhoff promoted.
The Australian is upbeat despite last weekend’s loss to South Africa.
“Since arriving in South Africa we had our best training session in some time. The environment will be difficult, but we intend to enjoy it,” said Cheika.
Meanwhile, emergency South Africa flyhalf Francois Steyn has been called “incredible” by former head coach Rassie Erasmus ahead of Saturday’s clash.
With Handre Pollard, Elton Jantjies and Damian Willemse unavailable, the 35-year-old utility back will make his first Springbok start as a playmaker since 2008.
First-choice Pollard is injured, Jantjies was dropped from the squad after reports of an alleged affair with the team dietician and Willemse is recovering from concussion.
That left Steyn as the only option for the clash with the Pumas at Kings Park in Durban and reserve scrumhalf Francois de Klerk will also provide flyhalf cover.
South African Director of Rugby Erasmus, the coaching mastermind behind South Africa winning the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan, lavished praise on Steyn, who has won 77 caps.
“It is incredible how Francois, at the age of 35, is still performing so well at international level. South Africans can be very proud of him,” he said.
Players to watch
For South Africa: All eyes will be on Francois Steyn. The 35-year-old has been asked to cover quite a few positions in his career and is definitely not a stranger to the No.10 role. His experience will be vital and his big boot could be a nail in the coffin for the Pumas. If things go pear-shaped in Auckland, the Springboks will probably need to score plenty of tries in Durban and that is where their speedsters, Canan Moodie and Makazole Mapimpi, will come in. They both know their way to the tryline, but it all depends on the space they get. In the pack, 2019 World Rugby Player of the Year Pieter-Steph du Toit returns to the loose forward trio in place of Franco Mostert. Du Toit is an abrasive customer, who will surely be up there in the stats when it comes to carries on Saturday. In the front row, Malcolm Marx has probably been South Africa’s best player in the tournament. The Springboks will need him in the breakdowns to ensure that they get as much ball as possible.
For Argentina: It was seven years ago when Argentina made history in Durban with a 37-25 win over the Boks. The star of the show that day was Juan Imhoff. He scored a memorable hat-trick, and he has all the talent in the world to do the same on Saturday after he was a surprise inclusion in Michael Cheika’s team announcement on Thursday. The other change is in the midfield where Matias Moroni comes in to try and exploit any weaknesses between Damian de Allende and Jesse Kriel. In the pack, Pablo Matera is a wily campaigner and Cheika will be looking to him for some extra punch at the breakdowns. Matera’s back-row partner Marcos Kremer is another player capable of giving the Boks some problems on the ground and he will also be called on to get his team over the gain line. There is always a spotlight on lock Tomas Lavanini who is sometimes viewed as a walking red card. The Pumas will need all their players on the field if they are to cause an upset.
Head to head
South Africa have won their last five Tests against Argentina; the last and only time the Springboks enjoyed a longer winning run against the Pumas was during their first 14 meetings from November 1993 to August 2012.
South Africa have won 14 of their 15 Tests against Argentina at home (L1), including their last six in succession despite leading at half-time in just three of those meetings.
Argentina have lost each of their last two Tests, as many as they lost in their six games prior (W4); the last time they went on a longer losing run was a seven-match span from August to November in 2021.
Last 10 encounters:
2022: South Africa won 36-20, Buenos Aires
2021: South Africa won 29-10, Port Elizabeth
2021: South Africa won 32-12, Port Elizabeth
2019: South Africa won 24-18, Pretoria
2019: South Africa won 46-13, Salta
2018: Argentina won 32-19, Mendoza
2018: South Africa won 34-21, Durban
2017: South Africa won 41-23, Salta
2017: South Africa won 37-15, Port Elizabeth
2016: Argentina won 26-24, Salta
@rugby365com: South Africa by 20 points.
South Africa: 15 Willie le Roux, 14 Canan Moodie, 13 Jesse Kriel, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Makazole Mapimpi, 10 Francois Steyn, 9 Jaden Hendrikse, 8 Jasper Wiese, 7 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 6 Siyamthanda Kolisi (captain), 5 Lodewyk de Jager, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Malcolm Marx, 1 Steven Kitshoff.
Replacements: 16 Mbongeni Mbonambi, 17 Retshegofaditswe Nche, 18 Vincent Koch, 19 Franco Mostert, 20 Duane Vermeulen, 21 Albertus Smith, 22 Francois de Klerk, 23 Kurt-Lee Arendse.
Argentina: 15 Juan Cruz Mallia, 14 Emiliano Boffelli, 13 Matias Moroni, 12 Jeronimo De La Fuente, 11 Juan Imhoff, 10 Santiago Carreras, 9 Gonzalo Bertranou, 8 Pablo Matera, 7 Marcos Kremer, 6 Juan Martin Gonzalez, 5 Tomas Lavanini, 4 Matias Alemanno, 3 Eduardo Bello, 2 Julian Montoya (captain), 1 Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro.
Replacements: 16 Agustin Creevy, 17 Mayco Vivas, 18 Joel Sclavi, 19 Guido Petti, 20 Pedro Rubiolo, 21 Tomas Cubelli, 22 Benjamin Urdapilleta, 23 Bautista Delguy.
Date: Saturday, September 24
Venue: Kings Park, Durban
Kick-off: 17.05 (12.05 ART; 15.05 GMT)
Expected weather: It will be mostly sunny and clear with a high of 24°C and a low of 16°C.
Referee: Damon Murphy (Australia)
Assistant referees: Frank Murphy (Ireland), Andrea Piardi (Italy)
TMO: Chris Hart (New Zealand)
AAP, AFP & @rugby365com
* Stats provided by Opta Data
— Springboks (@Springboks) September 21, 2022