South Africa v Argentina
Springboks to pile on Pumas' pain
Sam Bruce
August 7, 2015
Rugby Championship Preview: South Africa v Argentina

South Africa and Argentina contest a dead-rubber Rugby Championship fixture with both sides still hunting their first win in this year's shortened tournament. The Pumas have been outplayed by both New Zealand and Australia, but the Springboks have been terribly unlucky - succumbing to the Wallabies in the 82nd minute in Brisbane before a smart lineout call allowed Richie McCaw to grab the match-winner in Johannesburg a week later.

There has been some debate as to whether that lineout move was legal but there is no conjecture whatsoever around the Springboks' conditioning. Or the lack of it. That is partly due to their long list of injuries, though coach Heyneke Meyer admitted he hadn't perhaps put as much time into the squad's fitness as necessary; a problem he's attempted to rectify with the creation of a "mobile gym".

Team News

  • South Africa: Springboks skipper Jean de Villiers has defied the odds and worked his way back into World Cup contention after a horrifying knee injury last November. The captian's return sees the in-form Jesse Kriel move to the wing with Cornal Hendricks dropping out of the 23. Up front, Marcell Coetzee slots back into the back-row in place of the injured Francois Louw, while Vincent Koch starts for the sidelined Jannie du Plessis.
  • Argentina: The Pumas have made 11 changes to their starting side, which tells you everything you need to know about their effort against Australia in Mendoza. Juan Martin Hernandez is the key inclusion, replacing Nicolas Sanchez after the underachieving five-eighth ignored a ball-in-hand plan several times against the Wallabies. He is part of an entirely new backline, with just Juan Imhoff retained from the Mendoza mauling. Up front, Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro replaces injured tight-head Ramiro Herrera, Guido Petti Pagadizabal takes over from Manuel Carizza in the second-row, and Pablo Matera, Juan Manuel Leguizamon and Leonardo Senatore form an entirely new, and probably first-choice, back-row.

The rest of their game appears to be pretty sound. The midfield combination of Damian de Allende and Jesse Kriel - the latter shifting to the wing this week - has arguably been the find of the tournament, while the return of Heinrich Brussow has only added to their embarrassment of riches in the back-row.

The Pumas, meanwhile, have been huge disappointments. After breaking their Rugby Championship duck against Australia last year, the South Americans were expected to push them all the way in Mendoza a fortnight ago. It didn't happen, and if anything, it was probably a poorer performance than the one that saw them fall to the All Blacks in Christchurch.

In form

Thrust into the captaincy hot seat in the absence of Jean de Villiers and Victor Matfield, Schalk Burger did everything but secure the results in two heart-breaking losses to the Wallabies and All Blacks. His personal form certainly wasn't an issue, the veteran back-rower producing the sort of numbers that have seen him sit among the game's most fearsome forwards for the best part of a decade. His disruption of opposition breakdown ball has been a feature while a match-high 14 runs against the All Blacks shows just how much work he's getting through in attack.

Schalk Burger has been in tremendous form for the Springboks © Getty Images
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It's hard to gauge if any Argentines are in form such was the paucity of their efforts against Australia, and with 11 changes to the starting line-up ... ; Juan Martin Hernandez is one of the key players in the history of Argentinean rugby, and he has the talent and experience to provide backline direction that was so horribly absent in Mendoza. Up front, the all-new back-row of Pablo Matera, Juan Manuel Leguizamon and Leonardo Senatore is good enough to ensure the Springboks don't dominate the breakdown as they did against New Zealand.

Out of form

Tight-head prop Vincent Koch was involved in probably the biggest talking point to come out of the Joburg thriller with the All Blacks, and he now finds himself in the run-on side. Koch knocked on with the Springboks hard on attack at Ellis Park, though it appeared he may have been suffering the effects of concussion judging by the amount of blood streaming down his face. His substitution ultimately forced the Boks into uncontested scrums with replacement Trevor Nyakane "incapable" of playing tight-head. Koch has the chance to show his wares in the absence of Jannie du Plessis, and will want to distance himself from that Joburg disaster with a strong game up front.

Marcos Ayerza ranks among the most fabled loose-heads in world rugby, but he failed to assert himself on the Wallabies scrum and made minimal impact around the field. Manuel Carizza was similarly anonymous in the second-row, and he lost a lineout to boot. Tough times for Argentina.

Key battle

The biggest issue for the Springboks is their inability to close games out, with the finger pointed squarely at their conditioning. They've reportedly been working overtime on their fitness throughout the past fortnight, which could spell trouble for the Pumas. The South Americans have shown little to suggest they'll be anything but cannon fodder in the contest and the scoreline has the potential to get incredibly ugly if the hosts win the fatigue battle against themselves.

Key stats

  • The Springboks have won the most turnovers in this year's competition (19) and Argentina the fewest (9).
  • Argentina have scored just three points in the opening quarter of their two games this year - a competition low - while the Springboks have conceded just three in that time, the joint-fewest in the tournament.
  • South Africa are yet to score a single point in the final quarter of a game this year, while conceding more than any other team in that time (24).

Odds

South Africa are $1.07 and Argentina $8.40

Tip

This is a straight-up bloodbath. The Springboks should have beaten both the Wallabies and All Blacks; the frustration of those two late defeats will be taken out on the Pumas. South Africa by 35.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd

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