• ‘Lobbe will lift Pumas’

    Springbok forwards coach Johann van Graan is wary of Argentina’s ball-stealing ability and Juan Martín Fernández Lobbe in particular. JON CARDINELLI in Pretoria, reports.

    Lobbe will play a prominent role for the Pumas in Pretoria this Saturday. He was relieved of the Argentina captaincy earlier this year, but will still lead the way as far as breakdown play is concerned.

    Lobbe is coming off an outstanding season for Toulon. The French giants won the European Cup and Top 14 titles, and there is a terrific respect for the Argentine in the northern hemisphere.

    On Monday, Van Graan confirmed that Lobbe is held in equally high esteem down south. While the Pumas openside flank missed the two Rugby Championship Tests against South Africa in 2013 due to injury, the Boks know how devastating he can be in that fetcher’s role.

    ‘We’ve seen it in previous seasons, and we saw how influential he was in that European Cup final [against Saracens],’ said Van Graan. ‘He’s a quality player, and when he plays [for Argentina], they play well.’

    The Boks will not, however, target one specific player. Van Graan said as much on Monday, and commended the collective strength of the Pumas pack.

    ‘They’ve got some great stealers and those leg tackles make them very effective at the breakdown,’ he said. ‘It’s going to be a huge test for us.

    ‘They stole the most ball in 2013 – that is at the breakdowns, scrums, and lineouts. Of all the Test teams playing this past June, Argentina and South Africa were on top [in terms of turnovers won].'

    The Boks need to be physical and accurate at the tackle point if they are going to negate Lobbe and his teammates. Van Graan believes the recent Tests provided the South Africans with great preparation in this regard.

    ‘Both Wales and Scotland employ those low leg tackles, and I think we adapted quite well to that during the June Tests. We’ve done a lot of work at the breakdown, and [consultant] Richie Gray has played a big role in our improvement. We believe we are ready.’

    Photo: David Rogers/Getty Images

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    Jon Cardinelli