Turnover kings Bismarck du Plessis and Francois Louw will set up a bonus-point win for the Springboks at Loftus Versfeld this Saturday, writes JON CARDINELLI.
There’s been an overwhelmingly positive response to Heyneke Meyer’s selections for the Boks’ first game of the Rugby Championship. The South African public seems particularly enthused about the selections at No 10 and 13.
Indeed, the 20-year-old Handré Pollard is an exciting attacking player, while debutant Damian de Allende is expected to replicate the form shown for the Stormers in the recent Super Rugby competition. Add Bryan Habana, South Africa’s most prolific Test try-scorer, a sevens legend in Cornal Hendricks, and the uncontainable Willie le Roux, and you have a recipe for a four-try bonus point.
However, it would be remiss not to mention the key ingredients to what is a potentially potent cocktail. The Boks won’t realise their bonus-point object unless their forwards dominate the collisions and breakdowns.
Argentina are wary of the Boks' powerful scrum, not to mention the South Africans’ unstoppable lineout maul. They would prefer to play a less structured game, and will rely on their loose forwards, Juan Martin Fernández Lobbe in particular, to provide them with turnover ball.
While the Pumas are the lowest ranked nation in the Rugby Championship, they are statistically one of the best contesting teams in the world. It’s for this reason why the Boks must be especially clinical at the ruck on Saturday.
The northern hemisphere referee, Irishman John Lacey, will allow a breakdown contest, which means we can expect a fair few hands on the ball at every ruck. The Boks must look to dominate the collisions, and blast Lobbe and co away from the ball.
The Boks have the heavy hitters to win this battle, as well as the specialists to succeed on the ground. Bismarck du Plessis is one of the best in the game when it comes to effecting ruck turnovers. Louw is in the league of Richie McCaw and Michael Hooper as far as fetching is concerned. As a pair, they will make life miserable for the Pumas.
Argentina will fire in the opening quarter, and then fade in the second half. It’s in those final 40 minutes where the Boks will really up the tempo.
The visitors’ defensive resolve will crumble as the energy-sapping effect of altitude takes its toll. Du Plessis and Louw will provide the Boks with a steady supply of turnover ball, and from there, the hosts have the decision-makers in Ruan Pienaar, Pollard, and Jean de Villiers, as well as the finishers out wide, to translate chances into points.
The Boks will score four tries this Saturday. They have the superior pack and backline, as well as the advantage of playing this game at altitude. They must not be content with anything less than five log points.
HEAD TO HEAD
Overall: Played 17, South Africa 16, Draw 1.
In Johannesburg: South Africa 3, Argentina 0.
Springboks – 15 Willie le Roux, 14 Cornal Hendricks, 13 Damian de Allende, 12 Jean de Villiers (c), 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Handré 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.
Subs: 16 Adriaan Strauss, 17 Trevor Nyakane, 18 Frans Malherbe, 19 Eben Etzebeth, 20 Marcell Coetzee, 21 Francois Hougaard, 22 Morné Steyn, 23 Jan Serfontein.
Argentina – 15 Joaquín Tuculet, 14 Horacio Agulla, 13 Marcelo Bosch, 12 Juan Martín Hernández, 11 Manuel Montero, 10 Nicolás Sánchez, 9 Martin Landajo, 8 Juan Manuel Leguizamon, 7 Juan Martin Fernández Lobbe, 6 Pablo Matera, 5 Tomás Lavanini, 4 Mariano Galarza, 3 Ramiro Herrera, 2 Agustín Creevy (c), 1 Marcos Ayerza.
Subs: 16 Matías Corteze, 17 Lucas Noguera Paz, 18 Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro, 19 Matías Alemanno, 20 Leonardo Senatore, 21 Tomás Cubelli, 22 Santiago Gonzalez Iglesias, 23 Lucas González Amorosino.
Photo: Lee Warren/Gallo Images