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Jon Cardinelli

Preview: Argentina vs Springboks


Springbok centre JJ Engelbrecht should come into his own during the second half Springbok centre JJ Engelbrecht should come into his own during the second half

JON CARDINELLI analyses the key match-ups and picks the winner of the Castle Rugby Championship clash in Mendoza on Saturday.

How do you bounce back from a 73-13 hammering? The question was first put to Pumas coach Santiago Phelan immediately after the massacre at Soccer City. It was then put to the captain Felipe Contepomi. I even asked former Argentina scrumhalf Agustin Pichot the same question when I met him on Wednesday.

All three supplied a similar answer: 'We have to'.

It may be stating the obvious, but it shows that the Pumas' pride, as well as their bodies, sustained a battering at Soccer City last week. It was also a somewhat hopeful response, and it was interesting to note that neither Phelan, Contepomi nor Pichot said it with conviction.

Meanwhile, Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer has done his best to douse the flames of optimism that seem to be raging in South African circles.

Meyer is right to put things in perspective, as the Boks haven't achieved anything yet. Meyer is well aware of what happened in Mendoza last year, and that the Boks failed to win any of their away games in the 2012 Rugby Championship.

That said, this team have come a long way. They've built some momentum with three wins in Europe and another three at home in June.

They were physically dominant in last week's clash against the Pumas and, for the most part, clinical. All that is left for them to do is to overcome the jitters of playing away from home.

What counts in the Boks' favour is that the Pumas were abjectly poor in Johannesburg. There were no encouraging signs, no positives to be taken from a powder-puff performance.

The Pumas missed their inspirational captain and openside flanker, Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe, last week and will be without his services again in Mendoza. They've now lost their veteran lock Patricio Albacete to injury, so will be even more susceptible at the lineout.

Local journalists have told me that this team is an unhappy one, and that the coach is unlikely to continue for much longer. The Pumas may produce a more spirited performance this week than they did in Johannesburg – and let's face it, they can't possibly be any worse – but they simply don't have the individual players or the collective cohesion to worry the Boks.

All eyes will be on that Bok pack, a unit that humbled the much-vaunted Argentinians at Soccer City.

The scrum was impressive and the lineout superb. You can bet your house on the Boks using the maul to lay a platform. It will give them options to strike wide or close.

There's no risk of complacency. Meyer and his charges have made it clear that while they consider this fixture important, they have grander ambitions. They recognise that there is still a need for improvement before the bigger Tests in Australia and New Zealand, and so this Saturday's performance represents a crucial opportunity.

I expect the game will follow the same pattern as the previous fixture in Johannesburg. It will take some time for the Boks to settle in their combinations and adjust to the conditions.

As the Argentinian resistance begins to crumble in the second half, the likes of Willie le Roux and JJ Engelbrecht will come into their own. Morné Steyn's tactical and goal-kicking will be important in terms of playing the Boks into good field positions, but Steyn must also build on an encouraging attacking performance in Johannesburg.

Meyer has baulked at talk of a bonus point, but the Boks should be disappointed if they don't score four tries in this fixture. If they exhibit the same physicality as they did last week, and finish well, then the bonus point will be a formality.

MY CALL: Boks by 25

Springboks – 15 Willie le Roux, 14 Bjorn Basson, 13 JJ Engelbrecht, 12 Jean de Villiers (c), 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Morné Steyn, 9 Ruan Pienaar, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Willem Alberts, 6 Francois Louw, 5 Juandré Kruger, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Adriaan Strauss, 1 Tendai Mtawarira.
Subs: 16 Bismarck du Plessis, 17 Gurthrö Steenkamp, 18 Coenie Oosthuizen, 19 Flip van der Merwe, 20 Siya Kolisi, 21 Jano Vermaak, 22 Pat Lambie, 23 Jan Serfontein.

Argentina – 15 Lucas Gonzalez Amorosino, 14 Gonzalo Camacho, 13 Marcelo Bosch, 12 Felipe Contepomi (c), 11 Horacio Agulla, 10 Nicolas Sanchez, 9 Martin Landajo, 8 Leonardo Senatore, 7 Juan Manuel Leguizamon, 6 Pablo Matera, 5 Mariano Galarza, 4 Julio Farias Cabello, 3 Juan Figallo, 2 Eusebio Guinazu, 1 Marcos Ayerza.
Subs: 16 Agustin Creevy, 17 Nahuel Lobo, 18 Tomas Lavaninni, 19 Benjamin Macome, 20 Tomas Cubelli, 21 Santiago Fernandez, 22 Juan Imhoff.

Photo: Lee Warren/Gallo Images

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