Pat Lambie’s goal-kicking could be the difference when the Springboks take on a confident Argentina side in Buenos Aires this Saturday, writes JON CARDINELLI.
The Boks have struggled in Argentina over the past three seasons. They have failed to live up to expectations at the set pieces, and their loose forwards have lost the collisions and breakdowns.
In 2012, the Boks scrapped to a 16-16 draw against the Pumas in Mendoza. The 2013 Test at the same venue witnessed a narrow 22-17 win by the Boks thanks to the cool goal-kicking of Morné Steyn. In 2014, Steyn again spared the Boks an embarrassing defeat when he nailed several important kicks in the latter stages and steered South Africa to a 33-31 win.
This year, Heyneke Meyer has opted to take a largely second-string combination to Argentina. Several fringe players will be given one final opportunity to prove themselves before next month’s World Cup. Many of the first-choice stars will remain in South Africa.
The Boks desperately need to win this Test. They’ve lost their last four games, a record that includes last week's 37-25 defeat to Argentina in Durban. The coming fixture may provide a few Bok players with a chance to impress, but ultimately most will be hoping that this team does enough to end that losing streak.
In theory, the Bok pack should be boosted by the return of a couple of veterans. Victor Matfield will bring some much needed experience and direction to the Boks’ lineout. It is also hoped that Willem Alberts will provide some impetus at the gainline.
The Bok scrum has a point to prove after taking a beating at the hands of the Pumas last week. Meyer has made five changes to his starting pack, and that unit will be under pressure to settle early in this Saturday’s match.
Of course, the Pumas will have their tails up after last week’s success. They will look to frustrate the Boks at the set pieces and breakdowns. They will do whatever it takes to slow the Boks down at source.
Meyer has moved Jesse Kriel back into the midfield for this clash, and brought Lwazi Mvovo onto the right wing. However, if the Boks don’t succeed in laying the platform up front, those exciting attacking players will battle to make metres.
We could well be in for another dogfight. The Boks will need to show some character. They will need to fight for every inch of territory.
The accuracy of the kicking game could be as important as the physical battle. Pat Lambie and fullback Zane Kirchner will be key in this regard.
As was the case in the past three encounters in Argentina, the Boks’ goal-kicking will be crucial. It may fall to Lambie to edge the Boks into the lead, and win the game.
It promises to be an absorbing contest. The Pumas will be looking to pick up their second win against the Boks, and ride a wave of momentum into the World Cup. The Boks will be hoping to end their losing run, and take some confidence into the global tournament.
HEAD TO HEAD
Overall: Boks 18, Argentina 1, Draw 1
In Argentina: Boks 9, Draw 1.
STATS AND FACTS
– The Pumas and Boks last met in Buenos Aires in 2005. South Africa won 34-23.
– The Boks have not lost five consecutive Tests since 2006.
– The Pumas missed the most tackles (69), while the Boks missed the second-most (62) in the Rugby Championship.
– South Africa made the most handling errors (47) and the fewest clean breaks (19) in the Rugby Championship.
– The Boks won the most turnovers (25) and conceded the fewest penalties (29) in the Rugby Championship. The Pumas conceded the most over the three games (41).
Argentina – 15 Joaquín Tuculet, 14 Santiago Cordero, 13 Matías Moroni, 12 Juan Martín Hernández, 11 Juan Imhoff, 10 Nicolás Sánchez, 9 Martín Landajo, 8 Juan Manuel Legiuzamón, 7 Juan Martín Fernández Lobbe, 6 Tomás Lezana, 5 Tomás Lavanini, 4 Benjamin Macome, 3 Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro, 2 Agustín Creevy (c), 1 Marcos Ayerza.
Subs: 16 Julián Montoya, 17 Lucas Noguera, 18 Juan Pablo Orlandi, 19 Matias Alemanno, 20 Pablo Matera, 21 Tomás Cubelli, 22 Juan Pablo Socino, 23 Lucas González Amorosino.
Springboks – 15 Zane Kirchner, 14 Lwazi Mvovo, 13 Jesse Kriel, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Pat Lambie, 9 Ruan Pienaar, 8 Schalk Burger, 7 Willem Alberts, 6 Heinrich Brüssow, 5 Victor Matfield (c), 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Marcel van der Merwe, 2 Adriaan Strauss, 1 Trevor Nyakane.
Subs: 16 Schalk Brits, 17 Beast Mtawarira, 18 Frans Malherbe, 19 Flip van der Merwe, 20 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 21, Cobus Reinach, 22 Handré Pollard, 23 Jan Serfontein.
Photo: Steve Haag/Gallo Images