It’s vital that a mix-and-match Springbok combination maintains the side’s undefeated streak in the lead-up to the World Cup, writes JON CARDINELLI.
Make no mistake, the Boks need to win this one. A loss at home to Argentina would douse the flame of optimism that has been growing since the Boks won the Rugby Championship in Salta.
The Boks thumped Australia, drew with New Zealand and beat the Pumas to secure the southern-hemisphere title. A win against Argentina in Pretoria followed by a victory over Japan in Saitama will have South Africa heading into the World Cup tournament with an undefeated record in 2019.
Rassie Erasmus will be monitoring the performance of the fringe players and experimental combinations at Loftus Versfeld. Earlier this week, assistant coach Matt Proudfoot highlighted the scrap for places in the World Cup squad, which will be announced on 26 August.
There’s a buzz around the game in Pretoria and rightly so. Scrumhalf Cobus Reinach will be looking to show Erasmus why he deserves to travel to Japan. Marcell Coetzee and Rynhardt Elstadt – and Marco van Staden and Kwagga Smith when they are deployed from the bench – will be fighting for a place in a loose-forward group that already includes Siya Kolisi, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Duane Vermeulen and Francois Louw.
It may take some time for a new front- and back-row combination to settle. Reinach and Elton Jantjies will be starting as a halfback pairing for the first time.
There will be further disruptions over the course of the game as Erasmus mixes and matches in different departments. What needs to remain constant, however, is the Boks’ drive to attack the Pumas at the set piece and convert any dominance into points.
The side that won 46-13 in Salta last week did exactly that. The scrum fired to force several penalties, and Handre Pollard converted a number of those infringements into points. The lineout set the platform for further scoring chances.
What was particularly impressive to see was the team’s focus in the second half. They continued to attack the Pumas and the final scoreline was testimony to their hunger and intensity.
Schalk Brits – the designated skipper for this fixture – and Kolisi will need to keep the team similarly focused at Loftus. Kolisi himself will be looking to make a statement regarding performance and intensity, having only made his return to the playing field last week for Western Province.
After half time, Jantjies may be tasked with steering the ship. He will have a lot of support from players like Lood de Jager, Faf de Klerk and Frans Steyn.
If all goes to plan, the Boks will tick all the boxes and finish this part of their season with an undefeated record. Erasmus will also have a pleasant headache in terms of selections for the World Cup.
Springboks – 15 Warrick Gelant, 14 Sbu Nkosi, 13 Jesse Kriel, 12 Andre Esterhuizen, 11 Dillyn Leyds, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Cobus Reinach, 8 Marcell Coetzee, 7 Rynhardt Elstadt, 6 Siya Kolisi, 5 Lood de Jager, 4 RG Snyman, 3 Vincent Koch, 2 Schalk Brits (c), 1 Thomas du Toit.
Subs: 16 Scarra Ntubeni, 17 Lizo Gqoboka, 18 Wilco Louw, 19 Marvin Orie, 20 Marco van Staden, 21 Kwagga Smith, 22 Faf de Klerk, 23 Frans Steyn.
Pumas – 15 Joaquin Tuculet, 14 Sebastian Cancelliere, 13 Jeronimo de la Fuente, 12 Lucas Mensa, 11 Ramiro Moyano, 10 Joaquin Diaz Bonilla, 9 Felipe Ezcurra, 8 Javier Ortega Desio, 7 Marcos Kremer, 6 Pablo Matera (c), 5 Tomas Lavanini, 4 Guido Petti, 3 Santiago Medrano, 2 Julian Montoya, 1 Mayco Vivas.
Subs: 16 Agustin Creevy, 17 Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro, 18 Juan Figallo, 19 Matias Alemanno, 20 Tomas Lezana, 21 Gonzalo Bertranou, 22 Benjamin Urdapilleta, 23 Santiago Carreras.
Photo: EPA/Jan Touzeau