South Africa v Argentina - teams and prediction
PREVIEW, ROUND THREE: ‘Win at all costs’ has made way for ‘preparing for the World Cup’.
This has been a constant refrain from the Springbok camp ever since they gathered for their first ‘preparation camp’ back in May.
It was again the riposte of South African coach Jacques Nienaber when questioned about his team selection this week – ahead of their final Rugby Championship outing ahead of the World Cup, when they host Argentina at Ellis Park on Saturday.
In fact, Los Pumas coach Michael Cheika also put forth the ‘need for game time’ quote when asked about his team selection ahead of Saturday’s Round Three face-off.
Of course, there is a need for an improved performance – a response if you wish – after the Boks’ loss to New Zealand in Auckland a fortnight ago.
There is a slim – very remote – chance of South Africa winning the Rugby Championship.
Should New Zealand beat a struggling Australia in Melbourne earlier on Saturday, they will become Rugby Championship title-holders the ninth time in 11 editions.
Even if the All Blacks draw, it would leave the World Cup title holders, South Africa, and Argentina fighting for second place.
New Zealand has nine points, South Africa five, Argentina four and Australia just one from two matches – a meagre return since Eddie Jones returned for a second stint as coach.
However, Nienaber is more concerned with getting enough ‘miles’ in the legs of his players ahead of the trip to France and the global showpiece in September and October.
Even the emotion around Nienaber’s last home Test, before he heads off to Irish province Leinster after the World Cup, can’t distract him from the ‘big picture’.
( WATCH as Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber unpacks the key aspects of their Rugby Championship face-off against Los Pumas…)
“It will be a bit emotional on Saturday,” admitted Nienaber, as the clash with Los Pumas will be his last international on home soil before leaving his post after the global showpiece.
“The key for us is to balance performing, building and getting momentum [ahead of the World Cup],” Nienaber said during his traditional team-announcement media briefing.
“We want to spread as many minutes as we have across the squad.
“The key is to get that balance between performance, winning, and spreading the load,” he added
Cheika said it is difficult to pinpoint a place on a graph as to where his team is in terms of their growth.
“You don’t know where everyone else is,’ he said, adding: “Everyone is charting a different course.”
He said when they faced New Zealand in Round One of the Rugby Championship, the majority of his squad had not plauyed for about eight weeks.
“As you know from the South African players who are playing in Europe, they have no break.
“Our players [returning from their clubs in Europe] needed some time off.
“This week we have at least half-a-dozen guys playing their first game of the season.”
(Michael Cheika unpacks Los Pumas’ progress ahead of their face-off with the Springboks …)
Turning to the aspects of their game that most require improvement after the 20-35 loss to New Zealand in Auckland, Nienaber said the aerial game is a ‘work-on’.
“We were found a little bit short in terms of the contestable kicking game,” he said, adding: “It was a bit out of character for us.
“That is one of the strengths of Argentina.
“They do have a very good contestable kicking game.
“It is something we will have to fix [ahead of] facing Argentina.”
Nienaber, who succeeded World Cup-winning coach Rassie Erasmus in 2020, is joining Irish giants Leinster following the World Cup.
After almost two decades working with Erasmus, the expert in defence tactics had his personal moment of glory by leading the Springboks to a 2021 series win over the British and Irish Lions.
Nienaber works closely with South Africa’s Director of Rugby Erasmus, continuing a partnership that began in 2005 and included spells with the Stormers and Munster.
“Rassie and I have always worked as a team. I pick his brains all the time,” he said of Erasmus, who transformed the Springboks from a laughing stock in 2017 to world champions within two years.
Players to watch
For South Africa: Among nine changes Jacques Nienaber made to a starting line-up well beaten in New Zealand, was giving Grant Williams his first start after three appearances off the bench. Five scrumhalves – Williams, Francois de Klerk, Cobus Reinach, Jaden Hendrikse and Herschel Jantjies – are contesting three places in a World Cup squad to be named on August 8. Williams, who plays for the Sharks in Durban, can also operate on the wing and this versatility could be a trump card, provided he performs well at Ellis Park. Star wing Kurt-Lee Arendse has been recalled, having scored three tries in the opening match against Australia – raising his total to 10 in eight appearances for the Springboks. Centre Lukhanyo Am, flyhalf Damian Willemse and scrumhalf Francois de Klerk drop to the bench and there is no place for Mapimpi, scorer of a try in the 2019 World Cup Final triumph over England. South Africa will field a new back row for the clash with the Pumas as captain and No.8 Duane Vermeulen and flanks Pieter-Steph du Toit and Marco van Staden are selected. Lock Marvin Orie replaces Lodewyk de Jager and Malcolm Marx starts as hooker with Bongi Mbonambi now on the bench.
For Argentina: Argentina coach Michael Cheika has changed five of the line-up that started in an upset win over Australia a fortnight ago. In the backline, fullback Juan Cruz Mallia, centre Santiago Chocobares, veteran wing Juan Imhoff and scrumhalf Lautaro Bazan Velez have been promoted for the Johannesburg Test. There is also a positional switch with Mateo Carreras, one of the Pumas’ four try scorers in the 34-31 Sydney victory, switching wings to the right to accommodate Imhoff. Among the backs who have been dropped is fullback Emiliano Boffelli, an outstanding goal-kicker who slotted four conversions and two penalties in Australia two weeks ago. In the lone change among the forwards for the match at Ellis Park, lock Lucas Paulos replaces Matias Alemanno. Hooker Julian Montoya retains the captaincy, but his regular understudy and most-capped Puma, Agustin Creevy, will not make his 100th appearance as Ignacio Ruiz takes over the role.
Head to head
@rugby365com: South Africa by 18 points
South Africa: 15 Willie le Roux, 14 Cheslin Kolbe, 13 Jesse Kriel, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Kurt-Lee Arendse, 10 Manie Libbok, 9 Grant Williams, 8 Duane Vermeulen (captain), 7 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 6 Marco van Staden, 5 Marvin Orie, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Malcolm Marx, 1 Steven Kitshoff.
Replacements: 16 Bongi Mbonambi, 17 Trevor Nyakane, 18 Vincent Koch, 19 Kwagga Smith, 20 Rudolph Snyman, 21 Francois de Klerk, 22 Lukhanyo Am, 23 Damian Willemse.
Argentina: 15 Juan Cruz Mallía, 14 Mateo Carreras, 13 Lucio Cinti, 12 Santiago Chocobares, 11 Juan Imhoff, 10 Santiago Carreras, 9 Lautaro Bazán Vélez, 8 Juan Martin Gonzalez, 7 Santiago Grondona, 6 Pablo Matera, 5 Tomas Lavanini, 4 Lucas Paulos, 3 Francisco Gomez Kodela, 2 Julian Montoya (captain), 1 Thomas Gallo.
Replacements: 16 Ignacio Ruiz, 17 Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro, 18 Joel Sclavi, 19 Pedro Rubiolo, 20 Facundo Isa, 21 Gonzalo Bertranou, 22 Tomás Albornoz, 23 Matias Moroni.
Date: Saturday, July 29
Venue: Ellis Park, Johannesburg
Kick-off: 17.05 (15.05 GMT; 12.05 Argentina time)
Expected weather: Breezy and pleasant with sun and periods of high clouds. High of 22°C, low of 3°C
Referee: Andrew Brace (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Nika Amashukeli (Georgia) & Chris Busby (Ireland)
TMO: Joy Neville (Ireland)
* Additional reporting by AFP