Habana to sink Pumas

Bryan Habana and several other Springbok veterans will have plenty to play for in the third-place play-off against Argentina at the Olympic Stadium on Friday, writes JON CARDINELLI.

The Boks have been working on their exit plays this week following a disappointing performance against the All Blacks in their World Cup semi-final. It is hoped that they will produce a better kicking display in the final match of their 2015 campaign. That will allow them to play the majority of the contest deep in opposition territory, and to create more try-scoring chances.

The pressure to win week after week has influenced Heyneke Meyer’s selections and game plan. It would appear that there is still some pressure on the team as well as the coach going into this match.

No Bok side has lost more than two matches at a World Cup tournament. Meyer’s charges are hoping to secure third place this Friday, and to finish the season third in the World Rugby rankings.

South Africa go into this clash with a similar side to the one that fronted the All Blacks in their semi-final. The approach should also be similar considering the team has not trained much over the past few days. That said, one would hope that the game opens up in the second stanza and that the Boks play with more freedom.

Argentina have lost captain Agustín Creevy, centre Juan Martín Hernández and Juan Imhoff to injuries. Coach Daniel Hourcade has made as many as nine changes to his starting lineup.

Hourcade has promised another rousing attacking display like the one witnessed in their semi-final against Australia. The Pumas put on a show at Twickenham last Sunday. We could be in for an encore at the Olympic Stadium this Friday.

However, while the Pumas were entertaining, that performance lacked substance. Their decision-making was poor, and they showed a blatant disregard for territory. Ultimately, they failed to score a single try against the Wallabies.

South Africa have the scrum to challenge that of Argentina, and Victor Matfield will want to mark his final Test with a game-shaping lineout display. The Boks were impressive at the collisions and breakdowns last week. If Francois Louw and Duane Vermeulen continue to force turnovers, the Boks will have opportunities to run at a fractured Pumas defence.

This is where the likes of Willie le Roux, Handré Pollard, Jesse Kriel and Damian de Allende will have to step up. While the Boks have broken the line regularly at this tournament, their finishing has been poor.

No man will be more determined to cross the tryline than Bryan Habana. The veteran winger currently has 64 Test and 15 World Cup tries to his name. One more score and Habana will become the most prolific tier-one try-scorer, as well as the most prolific try-scorer at the global tournament.

The team will be playing for Habana as well as several others competing in what could be their final Test. This combination should be too strong for a Pumas outfit that is missing a number of first-choice players.

Springboks 19, Argentina 1, Draw 1.

15 – Tries scored in World Cup career
5 – Tries scored at this World Cup
266 – Metres made
8 – Clean breaks

Springboks – 15 Willie le Roux, 14 JP Pietersen, 13 Jesse Kriel, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Handré Pollard, 9 Ruan Pienaar, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Schalk Burger, 6 Francois Louw, 5 Victor Matfield (c), 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Bismarck du Plessis, 1 Beast Mtawarira.
Subs: 16 Adriaan Strauss, 17 Trevor Nyakane, 18 Jannie du Plessis, 19 Lood de Jager, 20 Willem Alberts, 21 Rudy Paige, 22 Pat Lambie, 23 Jan Serfontein.

Argentina – 15 Lucas Gonzalez Amorosino, 14 Santiago Cordero, 13 Matias Moroni, 12 Jeronimo de la Fuente, 11 Horacio Agulla; 10 Nicolás Sánchez (c), 9 Tomás Cubelli, 8 Juan Martín Fernández Lobbe, 7 Juan Manuel Leguizamon, 6 Javier Ortega Desio, 5 Tomás Lavanini, 4 Matias Alemanno, 3 Ramiro Herrera, 2 Julian Montoya, 1 Marcos Ayerza.
Subs: 16 Lucas Noguera, 17 Juan Pablo Orlandi, 18 Juan Figallo, 19 Guido Petti, 20 Facundo Isa, 21 Martin Landajo, 22 Santiago Gonzalez Iglesias, 23 Juan Pablo Socino.

Referee: John Lacey (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Glen Jackson (New Zealand), Chris Pollock (New Zealand)
TMO: Graham Hughes

SA Rugby magazine team's predictions

World Cup final preview

Photo: Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

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Jon Cardinelli