Springboks refuse to look past Argentina
The Springboks will be seeking to avoid any unnecessary scares when they take on underdogs Argentina at the start of their Rugby Championship campaign on Sunday morning (NZT) but will be wary about what looks on paper to be a routine assignment.
South Africa coach Heyneke Meyer has spent the week stressing the difficulty of the task at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria when many of rest of his compatriots are looking further ahead to the meetings with Australia and New Zealand in the annual four-nation competition.
"Argentina have always been difficult to play against so we are going out there to play our best rugby possible," he said.
A bruising forward challenge is expected as Argentina have shown signs of becoming a scrummaging force again and they will have a polished set of exciting backs to boot.
"In the scrum it's a huge contest, you have to scrum well to get your ball. They have some of the best guys at the breakdowns," Meyer added of an Argentine team who have spent close to a month working on their conditioning at a high performance centre in Pensacola, Florida.
South Africa, who have captain Jean de Villiers back from injury, will be firm favourites to get off to a winning start but the unpredictable nature of the South Americans means the Springboks can never be sure of what they will be up against.
Although they are yet to win a Rugby Championship game, Argentina show continuing signs of improvement but usually offer either stout resistance or implode as they did last year when the Springboks romped home in a nine-try 73-13 rout at Johannesburg's Soccer City.
A week later, however, albeit on Argentine soil, South Africa had to scramble two late penalties to squeeze home 22-17 in Mendoza.
Argentina have a familiar look about their line-up as well as a promise of freshness with the appointment of Daniel Hourcade as coach and hooker Agustin Creevy as new captain.
"South Africa are a thoroughbred team with strong players and a physical game both in attack and defence," Hourcade said.
He was appointed to a two-year contract after the end of last year's Rugby Championship.
"Discipline will be crucial and we have talked a lot about this and trained hard for this. Defence is key but we will use our opportunities to attack," he added.
The two countries meet again on August 23 in Salta.
South Africa: 15-Willie le Roux; 14-Cornal Hendricks, 13-Damian de Allende, 12-Jean de Villiers (captain), 11-Bryan Habana, 10-Handre Pollard, 9-Ruan Pienaar, 8-Duane Vermeulen, 7-Willem Alberts, 6-Francois Louw, 5-Lood de Jager, 4-Bakkies Botha, 3-Jannie du Plessis, 2-Bismarck du Plessis, 1-Tendai Mtawarira
Replacements: 16-Adriaan Strauss, 17-Trevor Nyakane, 18-Frans Malherbe, 19-Eben Etzebeth, 20-Marcell Coetzee, 21-Francois Hougaard, 22-Morne Steyn, 23-Jan Serfontein
Argentina: 15-Joaquin Tuculet, 14-Horacio Agulla, 13-Marcelo Bosch, 12-Juan Martin Hernandez, 11-Manuel Montero, 10-Nicolas Sanchez, 9-Martin Landajo, 8-Juan Manuel Leguizamon, 7-Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe, 6-Paul Matera, 5-Thomas Lavanini, 4-Mariano Galarza, 3-Ramiro Herrera 2-Agustin Creevy (captain), 1-Marcos Ayerza
Replacements: 16-Matias Cortese, 17-Paz Lucas Noguera, 18-Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro, 19-Matias Alemanno, 20-Leonardo Senatore, 21-Thomas Cubelli, 22-Santiago Gonzalez Iglesias, 23-Lucas Gonzalez Amorosino
Referee: Steve Walsh (Australia)