The following is a preview of the Round 1 Rugby Championship clash between South Africa and Argentina at FNB Stadium in Johannesburg. The game kicks off at 11:00 PM AEST on Saturday, the 17th of August. The referee is Chris Pollock from New Zealand.
The Springboks and Pumas finished 3rd and 4th, respectively, in the inaugural Rugby Championship last year. The Springboks ended on 12 points with a disappointing 2-1-3 record while Los Pumas finished on 4 points with a 0-1-5 record. The Springboks are undefeated against Los Pumas however they were given an almighty scare last year in a game that ended in a draw. Below are last year’s results between the Springboks and Pumas:
25 Aug 2012 (Mendoza) – Argentina 16-16 South Africa
18 Aug 2012 (Cape Town) – South Africa 27-6 Argentina
Only two changes have been made to the starting fifteen from their most recent Test in June. Duane Vermeulen replaces the injured Pierre Spies at No.8 while Juandre Kruger replaces Flip van der Merwe at lock. The two new additions to the bench are Fourie du Preez, who has been recalled to the side as the reserve scrum-half, and Toulouse-based prop Gurthro Steenkamp.
15. Willie le Roux, 14. Bjorn Basson, 13. JJ Engelbrecht, 12. Jean de Villiers (captain), 11. Bryan Habana, 10. Morne Steyn, 9. Ruan Pienaar, 8. Duane Vermeulen, 7. Willem Alberts, 6. Francois Louw, 5. Juandre Kruger, 4. Eben Etzebeth, 3. Jannie du Plessis, 2. Adriaan Strauss, 1. Tendai Mtawarira
Reserves: 16. Bismarck du Plessis, 17. Guthro Steenkamp, 18. Coenie Oosthuizen, 19. Flip van der Merwe, 20. Siya Kolisi, 21. Fourie du Preez, 22. Patrick Lambie, 23. Jan Serfontein
Felipe Contepomi has been named as captain in place of Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe, who has been ruled out with a calf injury. Leonardo Senatore replaces Lobbe in the back row. In all, there are eight changes to the squad that faced the Springboks in Cape Town this time last year. A notable departure is loosehead prop Rodrigo Roncero, who retired in 2012.
15. Juan Martin Hernandez, 14. Gonzalo Camacho, 13. Marcelo Bosch, 12. Felipe Contepomi (captain), 11. Juan Imhoff, 10. Nicolas Sanchez, 9. Martin Landajo, 8. Leonardo Senatore, 7. Juan Martin Leguizamon, 6. Pablo Matera, 5. Patricio Albacete, 4. Manuel Carizza, 3. Matias Diaz, 2. Eusebio Guinazu, 1. Juan Figallo
Reserves: 16. Agustin Creevy, 17. Nahuel Lobo, 18. Juan Pablo Orlandi, 19. Mariano Galarza, 20. Julio Farias Cabello, 21. Tomas Cubelli, 22. Santiago Fernandez, 23. Horacio Agulla
Springboks coach Heyneke Meyer must have serious concerns about the depth of rugby at the domestic level in South Africa. He selected eight players for the 30-man squad who are either playing overseas or who have imminent contracts to do so. Meyer brought back Fourie du Preez from Japanese club rugby to provide an option at scrum-half while Morne Steyn has been named despite signing with Stade Francais. Morne Steyn’s selection hopefully doesn’t mean the Springboks will return to a more conservative style of rugby than what we saw in the June Tests. With the likes of Bjorn Basson, JJ Engelbrecht, Willie le Roux and Jan Serfontein in the squad, the Springboks certainly don’t lack attacking talent in the backs. For the sake of the neutral I hope they can make effective use of them.
Argentina’s inclusion in this competition is fantastic as it will only increase the depth of rugby in the Southern Hemisphere. Los Pumas are currently ranked 10th in the world, but they defeated 6th ranked Wales 26-12 in Cardiff last November, which underlines the strides they are making in the sport. In the Rugby Championship last year Argentina were consistently competitive for the first 60 minutes before fading in the last quarter. If they can put in 80-minute performances they will have a good chance of improving on the 4 points they picked up last year.
For the Springboks this will be their first experience using the new “crouch, bind, set” procedure at scrum time. Argentina have had some experience with the new rules after playing against NSW. Props will now be required to lock arms rather than just touch. This change is designed to reduce the number of scrum resets. There will be less emphasis on the initial hit and it will be interesting to see how the teams adapt.
The two sides have only met twice since 2008 so it’s hard to make a recommendation based on historical data. Argentina lost this fixture by 21 points last year, and given the improvements they are making with more experience at this level, I would back them to do better this time round. A good benchmark for this game is the 30-17 result between South Africa and Scotland in June, because Scotland and Argentina are separated by less than 0.3 points in the IRB World Rankings. I would back Argentina +21.5 (pick your own line market) at 1.55 (Sportsbet / IASbet).
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