The Springboks go in search of their first Rugby Championship crown when they take on Argentina in Salta on Saturday. JOHN GOLIATH looks at some of the battles that could be key to winning the war.
Emiliano Boffelli vs Willie le Roux
Boffelli is a dangerous runner and someone the Boks need to keep a very close eye on. Moving to fullback gives him a lot more space to let rip, while he also has the ability to pop up in positions where he can hurt the opposition with his pace and old-school swerve. The Jaguares’ ace has also improved a lot under the high ball, while his kicking out of hand isn’t bad either.
Le Roux didn’t have the greatest of outings against the All Blacks, in terms of influencing the clash with his running ability and tactical kicking. However, he remains the Boks’ premier fullback and needs to play a big part in the match if they are to lift the Rugby Championship. Le Roux is great reader of the game, and must make sure that his positional play is on point to counter the Argentina side’s kicking game.
Nicolas Sanchez vs Handre Pollard
Sanchez was the best player on the park against the Springboks in last year’s corresponding fixture. He mixed his game up well and really ran the show from the No 10 position. He exploited the Boks’ defence with wonderfully timed inside passes, while he also kicked really well out of hand. If he gets good ball, the Boks’ rush defence will be put to the test.
Pollard is a strong boy and will likely have a go at Sanchez in that flyhalf channel. The Boks are likely to add a bit of variation on attack, with inside centre Damian de Allende maybe used as a decoy, which could have Pollard taking more contact or spreading the ball lot more to the outside backs. Either way, this could be one of the great duels in the match.
Pablo Matera vs Pieter-Steph du Toit
It’s not every day that you win the man-of-the-match award while on the losing side in a Vodacom Super Rugby final. But Matera stood out head and shoulders above the rest when the Jaguares succumbed to the Crusaders in Super Rugby’s showpiece match earlier this year. He can run, offload, tackle and run some more. He has become one of the Pumas’ most important players.
But Matera is going to head to head against a guy who can match him in those departments. Du Toit also runs, offloads, tackles and runs some more – and more. He has become a Bok stalwart over the last few years, and a man who personifies their new-found zest. Du Toit is going to put in another big shift on Saturday, but will hopefully be given a bit of break next weekend to keep him fresh for the World Cup.
Agustin Creevy vs Bongi Mbonambi
Creevy really is the heart and soul of the Pumas team. He leads from the front and plays with his heart on his sleeve. The hooker has a good all-round game, as his set pieces are tidy and he also gets around the park. He will need to keep his team calm, though, as they tend to concede penalties due to their over-eagerness to win in front of their home crowd.
Mbonambi’s selection is really good, because it gives the hooker some more time on the park after missing the final quarter of the Stormers’ Super Rugby campaign with an injury. Mbonambi played really well against Australia and showed little signs of rust. His lineout throwing remains a concern, but he can play with a bit of freedom in Salta, knowing that his World Cup ticket is already booked.
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