Lobbe relishing breakdown battle

Juan Martín Fernández Lobbe believes that the Pumas will demand the very best of the Springboks at the breakdown this Saturday. JON CARDINELLI in Pretoria, reports.

While Argentina have never beaten South Africa in a Test match, they have won a few minor battles in the trenches. In 2012 in Mendoza, they took the fight to the Boks at the tackle point and secured a monumental 16-16 draw. They came short at the same venue in 2013, but few would argue that on that occasion the Boks were a distant second to the Pumas in the physical stakes.

The chances of Argentina making history this Saturday at Loftus Versfeld are slim. What they can do is stifle and frustrate the South Africans, and prevent the Boks from scoring four tries and ultimately five log points.

There’s a lot of pride on the line, especially for a player of Lobbe’s experience. The Argentina and Toulon No 7 is respected around the globe, and the Boks have already made mention of his special abilities in the buildup to Saturday’s match.

Lobbe, however, is not about to let the praise go to his head. He told SARugbymag.co.za that the Pumas have come to Pretoria to make a statement, and that nothing would please them more than a victory over the Boks at the collisions and breakdowns.

Much has been made about their spoiling tactics. It’s evident that Lobbe doesn’t believe the word ‘spoiling’ should be viewed negatively. On the contrary, he feels that a rabid contest is absolutely necessary.

‘We have to stop them. At the rucks, at the collisions, everywhere. We have to stop them however we can,’ he told this website. ‘It’s always a big contest between these two countries.  You have to slow them down, you can’t allow them to build up any momentum.

‘I understand the mentality of these players, because there are a lot of South Africans at Toulon. Juan Smith, Bakkies Botha, Craig Burden, Joe van Niekerk, Bryan Habana… it doesn’t matter who the player is, the mantra is always the same. It’s a case of “I am going to physically dominate you” We have to meet that physicality.’

Bok forwards coach Johann van Graan said on Monday that the South Africans are expecting a fierce challenge, especially at the breakdown. The Pumas have not beaten any of the big southern hemisphere teams since the Rugby Championship’s inception, and yet, as Van Graan pointed out, the Pumas boast the best turnover stats of any other team.

They relish a scrappy contest, and will take pride in denying the Boks momentum this Saturday.

‘We will be aiming to tackle them low, and then compete, compete, compete,’ confirmed Lobbe. ‘We need to bring absolutely everything we have into this game, physically and mentally. If the mentality is wrong, well you’ve seen what this Bok team can do.

‘We remember what happened in Johannesburg last year [the Boks won 73-13], and we also remember what happened in Mendoza. Both games are worth remembering, as there were different lessons to take. The bottom line is you can’t lose focus for a minute, because the Boks can make you pay.’

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Photo: Anthony Au-Yeung/Getty Images

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Jon Cardinelli