With the Tri-Nations on a break for a week, attentions are diverted to the clash between World Champions South Africa, and World Cup dark horses, Argentina.
The last time these two sides met was at the semi-final stage of the 2007 world cup where Argentina simply ran out of steam with South Africa winning 37-13. That match was an epic. It was the battle of the would be champions versus the team that captured everyone’s imagination.
Tomorrow’s match is simply a warm up for the Boks, which, frankly, they should win at a canter – with this match being used primarily to face up against one of the best scrummaging, and most abrasive packs in world rugby in preparation for the game against the All Blacks on August 16th.
Argentina, although still a difficult team to beat, have taken a step backwards since the world cup. Argentina head coach Santiago Phelan is still rebuilding his squad, and is preparing for just his fourth game at the helm since taking over from Marcelo Loffreda.
The biggest area of concern for Phelan is at scrum-half after a recent failure to fill the void left by the expected retirement of Augustin Pichot last year. Nicolas Vergallo, whilst a solid player, has failed to inspire to Pumas to the extent of Pichot and Argentina’s game has suffered subsequently. The nation ranked fourth in the IRB world rankings is also without star man Juan Martin Hernandez due to injury – Felipe Contepomi taking up fly-half duties.
Speaking ahead of the game, Contepomi said: “I believe the Springboks are the best team in the world at the moment, they are the world champions and they have started well in the Tri-nations.
“It is an away game for us and you wouldn’t choose to play the best team in the world, when most of your players are in the middle of their pre-season, as your first outing under the new rules. But if you are given the opportunity to play against top international teams then you have to take it and hopefully it will pay off.”
Unlike the Argentinians, confidence is oozing out of the Springbok camp. An indifferent set of results has hidden the fact that South Africa have been playing some very good rugby during this year’s Tri-Nations,
The Boks have kept a largely unchanged squad, with the only noticeable omission being that of Schalk Burger due to injury. However, the return of Fourie du Preez, arguably the best scrum-half in world rugby, to the Springbok bench can only be a boost for Peter de Villiers’ team.
South Africa: 15 Conrad Jantjes, 14 JP Pietersen, 13 Adrian Jacobs, 12 Jean de Villiers, 11 Jongi Nokwe, 10 Butch James; 1 Tendai Mtawarira, 2 Bismarck du Plessis, 3 CJ van der Linde, 4 Bakkies Botha, 5 Victor Matfield (c), 6 Luke Watson, 7 Juan Smith, 8 Pierre Spies, 9 Enrico Januarie.
Replacements: 16 Adriaan Strauss, 17 Brian Mujati, 18 Andries Bekker, 19 Joe van Niekerk, 20 Fourie du Preez, 21 Jaque Fourie, 22 Percy Montgomery.
Argentina: 15 Bernardo Stortoni, 14 José María Núñez Piossek, 13 Federico Martín Aramburu, 12 Miguel Avramovic, 11 Horacio Agulla, 10 Felipe Contepomi (c); 1 Rodrigo Roncero, 2 Mario Ledesma, 3 Pedro Ledesma, 4 Rimas Álvarez Kairelis, 5 Patricio Albacete, 6 Martín Durand, 7 Juan Martín Fernández Lobbe, 8 Juan Manuel Leguizamón, 9 Nicolás Vergallo.
Replacements: 16 Alberto Vernet Basualdo, 17 Marcos Ayerza, 18 Esteban Lozada, 19 Álvaro Galindo, 20 Alfredo Lalanne, 21 Benjamín Urdapilleta, 22 Rafael Carballo.