The Springboks need to show they mean business when they start their Rugby Championship campaign against Argentina in Nelspruit on Saturday.
The optimism surrounding the Springboks have been in decline for the last two years and after a difficult series against Ireland they must show they have the players and game plan to get back to the top, or at least near the top. The series against Ireland got off to a disastrous start and South Africa can’t afford to be slow out of the gate against the Pumas.
They need to show they have learned from the mistakes they made in the June series.
Allister Coetzee and his team have been given a fairly easy start to the competition considering they are playing the weakest of the three other teams at home. But after last year’s shock loss in Durban, Argentina will believe they can pull off another upset this time around. They may not have their best team available for this clash but the Boks are also missing one or two key players.
South Africa were notoriously bad starters in the first two Tests against Ireland but since then they have spent more time together as a squad. They will want to hit the ground running in front of their home crowd and put down a marker which shows they mean business from the get-go.
Word out of the Argentina camp is that they are looking for a repeat result Durban come Saturday and are also looking to mount a more competitive effort when facing the All Blacks later in the competition. They will no doubt use the Boks as a stepping stone to get there which should make for a tight clash at the Mbombela Stadium.
Players to watch:
For South Africa: Ruan Combrinck looks like the complete winger. He has speed, is good in the air and strong defencively. After making his debut in the June series against Ireland, Combrinck will be keen to build on those strong performances and make the number 14 jersey his own. He is strong on his feet and could prove to be a real threat, but only if the likes of Elton Jantjies and Damian de Allende ensure the ball gets out wide. Lood de Jager was a somewhat surprising inclusion at lock ahead of Pieter-Steph fu Toit, who had a strong series against Ireland. De Jager, South Africa’s Player of the Year in 2015, will want to prove his consistency and establish himself as Eben Etzebeth’s first-choice lock partner. His physicality can be a vital weapon in the forward battle with the Argentinians.
For Argentina: The partnership betweem inside centre Juan Martín Hernández and fly-half Nicolás Sánchez will be massively important for Argentina as they look to exploit the suspect defensive capabilities of their opposite numbers Damian de Allende and Elton Jantjies. The Pumas are always competitive at scrum time and at the breakdown and if they manage to get the upperhand there, it will give Hernández and Sánchez the necessary front foot ball to cause the Springbok defence some headaches.
Head-to-head: The match-up between Nicolás Sánchez and Elton Jantjies could prove decisive in the outcome of the game. Their impact on proceedings will largely be determined by the performance of their respective forward packs, which promises to be an almighty tussle as usual. Both Sánchez and Jantjies have the ability to change the course of a game with some individual brilliance. The winning team might well be determined by whoever controls the game better.
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
2013: South Africa won 22-17 in Mendoza
2013: South Africa won 73-13 in Soweto
2012: South Africa and Argentina drew 16-16 in Mendoza
2012: South Africa won 27-6 in Cape Town
2008: South Africa won 63-9 in Johannesburg
South Africa: 15 Johan Goosen, 14 Ruan Combrinck, 13 Lionel Mapoe, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Elton Jantjies, Faf de Klerk, 8 Warren Whiteley, 7 Teboho Mohoje, 6 Francois Louw, 5 Lood de Jager, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Julian Redelinghuys, 2 Adriaan Strauss (c) , Tendai Mtawarira.
Replacements: 16 Bongi Mbonambi, 17 Steven Kitshoff, 18 Vincent Koch, 19 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 20 Jaco Kriel, 21 Rudy Paige, 22 Juan de Jongh, 23 Jesse Kriel.
Argentina: 15 Joaquín Tuculet, 14 Santiago Cordero, 13 Matías Orlando, 12 Juan Martín Hernández, 11 Manuel Montero, 10 Nicolás Sánchez, 9 Martín Landajo, 8 Facundo Isa, 7 Juan Manuel Leguizamon, 6 Pablo Matera, 5 Tomas Lavanini, 4 Matías Alemanno, 3 Ramiro Herrera, 2 Agustín Creevy, 1 Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro.
Replacements: 16 Julián Montoya, 17 Felipe Arregui, 18 Enrique Pieretto, 19 Guido Petti, 20 Javier Ortega Desio, 21 Tomás Cubelli, 22 Santiago Gonzalez Iglesias, 23 Ramiro Moyano.
Date: Saturday, August 20
Venue: Mbombela Stadium, Nelspruit
Kick-off: 17:05 local (15:05 GMT)
Referee: Glen Jackson (New Zealand)
Assistant Referees: Jérôme Garcès (France), Ben O’Keeffe (New Zealand)
TMO: George Ayoub (Australia)