Argentina have identified Springbok openside flank Francois Louw as the danger man ahead of Saturday's Test at Soccer City, reports JON CARDINELLI in Johannesburg.
While the new scrum laws have dominated the talk in both camps this week, neither the Boks nor the Pumas have forgotten about the importance of the breakdown.
Argentina succeeded in stifling and frustrating the Boks at the contact point in 2012 and coach Heyneke Meyer is determined not to see history repeat itself in 2013.
Meyer learned some important lessons in 2012. The Boks struggled without a specialist openside in the initial stages of that season. It was only when Louw was recalled for the last four games of the Castle Rugby Championship that they began to strike a balance in their back-row play.
By the end of the year, Louw had entrenched himself as not only an indispensible cog in the Bok machine, but a leader as well.
Louw recently signed a contract extension with Bath, an English club that also boasts a couple of prominent Argentinians on its books. And as fate would have it, hooker Eusebio Guiñazú and winger Horacio Agulla will play for the Pumas in Saturday's Test.
Guiñazú's relationship with Louw stretches back to 2010 when the two were playing for the Stormers. He knows what Louw is capable of in that openside role, and he told this website that the Pumas would be going all-out to keep the Bok No 6 quiet at Soccer City.
'You just can't let him get over the ball, you can't give him a chance because he will punish you,' said Guiñazú. 'We've just got to make sure that our ball-carriers stay on their feet for as long as possible, that they don't get isolated and Flo comes into play.'
The Pumas have been struck a big blow with news that their captain and openside flanker Juan Martin Fernández Lobbe has been ruled out with a calf injury. Lobbe had an outstanding season for the French club Toulon, and the Pumas will certainly miss his leadership as much as his ball-foraging ability at the breakdown.
Indeed, Louw recently told SA Rugby magazine that Lobbe would be one of the danger men in this year's Rugby Championship. That he isn't playing in this weekend's match will make the Boks' task less difficult.
'He's a very important player for us,' said 52-Test veteran Patricio Albacete. 'It's unfortunate that he is no longer available, but I suppose we just have to get on with it.'
Lobbe will be replaced by another experienced loose forward in Juan Manuel Leguizamón. He has 46 international caps and plays his club rugby in Europe for French side Lyon.
Leguizamón agreed that the biggest battle this Saturday will be at the breakdown. If the Pumas don't subdue the Boks in this area, they have no chance of winning.
'We will basically have to play our best game to excel in that area, and win the match.' Leguizamón said.
Photo: Manus van Dyk/Gallo Images
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