Preview: Argentina v South Africa

Date published: August 23 2018

The Springboks travel to Mendoza to face Argentina in Round Two of the 2018 Rugby Championship, looking for back-to-back victories over their hosts.

Last weekend’s 34-21 win in Durban did not come easily for the Boks, however, as they were 14-10 down by the time the sides headed into the interval. However, they would dig themselves out of a hole in the second-half as they have become accustomed to doing.

Rassie Erasmus must be concerned by the fact that his side have too often fallen behind in the recent past only to claw themselves back into games. In fact the Springboks have trailed at half-time in each of their last five games in the Rugby Championship; only to scrounge up a win and two draws in that span.

Argentina did well to unsettle the Boks in that first-half with their line-speed on defence, forcing the hosts to hurry when playing out wide and inevitably make mistakes.

But for a nation that usually prides itself on its forward dominance, Argentina were completely dominated up front throughout the encounter, something that will irk newly-appointed head coach Mario Ledesma; himself a master of the dark arts.

And Bok mentor Erasmus says the Boks are bracing for a response from the Pumas pack.

“We’ve always rated them as a very physical team and we felt the game (in Durban) was physical. They’re going to step it up and I think they will come hard at our mauling, scrums and the breakdowns,” he said.

It was the Boks, who bossed the set-piece in Durban, enjoying an 83 percent line-out success rate to los Pumas’ 64 percent and a 100 percent scrum success rate to their opponents’ 71 percent. The return of Franco Mostert to the starting line-up and Wilco Louw and RG Snyman to the matchday 23 will only strengthen a pack already in fine shape.

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Mostert comes into the side at number five for Pieter-Steph du Toit, who drops to the bench. And Erasmus explained the reason for Mostert’s absence in the first Test was due to a heavy workload in 2018, with the Lions having made it all the way to the Super Rugby final.

“Franco needed rest after Super Rugby and the June internationals and we therefore didn’t consider him for Durban. He’s been our first-choice No 5 lock and that’s why he is starting on Saturday,” he said.

With Argentina expected to be an altogether different proposition in front of their boisterous home support, the Boks can ill-afford for Handre Pollard to produce a similarly poor performance from the tee, having kicked just two of his seven conversions last time out.

Players to watch:

For Argentina: Keep an eye out for Guido Petti. The 23-year-old is very fast for a lock and comes in at 108kg and 1.94m, making him a significant threat with ball in hand and a constant menace on attack. He has a new partner in Tomas Lavanini this week with both key to Argentina’s hopes.

For South Africa: Franco Mostert returns this week having been rested after a heavy workload in 2018. Has been one of the Lions’ standout performers once again throughout the season with his consistent showings. He was at the forefront of the Johannesburg outfit’s onslaught up front and finished the campaign as Super Rugby’s most prolific tackler (234) and line-out jumper (87).

Head-to-head: As always, the battle between the fly-halves will be crucial to the outcome of the game. Nicolas Sanchez was impressive in Durban last weekend, scoring a try as well as kicking three conversions, and is now just 28 points shy of eclipsing Felipe Contepomi as the most prolific Argentine points-scorer in history. Handre Pollard, meanwhile, was a key weapon for the Springboks at Kings Park, beating a team-high four defenders from his seven carries while he executed two offloads. However, Pollard will need to improve off the tee.

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Previous results:

2018: South Africa won 34-21 in Durban
2017: South Africa won 41-23 in Mendoza
2017: South Africa won 37-15 in Port Elizabeth
2016: Argentina won 26-24 in Salta
2016: South Africa won 30-23 in Nelspruit
2015: South Africa won 24-13 in London
2015: South Africa won 26-12 in Buenos Aires
2015: Argentina won 37-25 in Durban
2014: South Africa won 33-31 in Salta
2014: South Africa won 13-6 in Pretoria

Prediction: Despite being home soil, it’s hard to see Argentina turning round things so quickly after last week: South Africa by 7.

The teams:

Argentina: 15 Emiliano Boffelli, 14 Bautista Delguy, 13 Matias Moroni, 12 Bautista Ezcurra, 11 Ramiro Moyano, 10 Nicolas Sanchez, 9 Gonzalo Bertranou, 8 Javier Ortega Desio, 7 Marcos Kremer, 6 Pablo Matera, 5 Tomas Lavanini, 4 Guido Petti, 3 Juan Figallo, 2 Agustin Creevy (c), 1 Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro
Replacements: 16 Facundo Bosch, 17 Santiago Garcia Botta, 18 Santiago Medrano, 19 Matias Alemanno, 20 Tomas Lezana, 21 Tomas Cubelli, 22 Jeronimo de la Fuente, 23 Juan Cruz Mallia

South Africa: 15 Willie le Roux, 14 Makazole Mapimpi, 13 Lukhanyo Am, 12 André Esterhuizen, 11 Aphiwe Dyantyi, 10 Handré Pollard, 9 Faf de Klerk, 8 Warren Whiteley, 7 Siya Kolisi (c), 6 Francois Louw, 5 Franco Mostert, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Malcolm Marx, 1 Tendai Mtawarira
Replacements: 16 Bongi Mbonambi, 17 Steven Kitshoff, 18 Wilco Louw, 19 RG Snyman, 20 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 21 Embrose Papier, 22 Lionel Mapoe, 23 Damian Willemse

Date: Saturday, August 25
Venue: Estadio Malvinas Argentinas, Mendoza
Kick-off: 16:10 local (20:10 BST, 19:10 GMT)
Referee: Angus Gardner (Australia)
Assistant referees: Ben O’Keeffe (New Zealand), Andrew Brace (Ireland)
TMO: Simon McDowell (Ireland)