South Africa coach Heyneke Meyer expects Argentina to live up to
their reputation as fearsome scrummagers when the Pumas make their
long-awaited debut in the expanded Tri-Nations in Cape Town on Saturday
night (NZ time).
Argentina have never beaten the Springboks and face a baptism of
fire at Newlands as they join the southern hemisphere's elite
competition after years of lobbying.
"We know that Argentina is going to have a very strong scrum. We
know that they are going to take us on up front and we need to be at our
best," Meyer said of their opening Rugby Championship clash.
"The scrum is usually the first physical confrontation in a game and
we are two countries that pride themselves on being great scrummaging
South Africa's game plan will also be based around their powerful
forward pack but Meyer is banking on under-fire fly half Morne Steyn to
find his best form.
Steyn, usually a deadly accurate goal-kicker, succeeded with just 12
out of 20 attempts at goal during the Springboks' three-test series
against England in June.
"Morne understands that when you play fly half for South Africa
there is expectation and there is pressure, and he knows that when you
don't perform to the expectation there is criticism," said Meyer.
"I don't know any player who can take criticism better than Morne
can. But I think the criticism will motivate him to produce good rugby
going forward and I have a lot of confidence in him."
South Africa made six changes to the team who drew 14-14 with
England in the third test in June, with number eight Keegan Daniel
coming in for his first test start after replacing the injured Pierre
Argentina wing Gonzalo Camacho recognised that the Pumas had reached a watershed moment.
"We have been feeling the pressure and climate of heading into a huge game, the test will be huge," Camacho said.
"It is historical because South Africa is a world (rugby) power, an
elite side, and because it is a tournament that we have to prove
Argentina fly half Juan Martin Hernandez will make his first test
appearance in three years having suffered a string of injuries since
helping his country finish third at the 2007 World Cup.
The starting team, captained by number eight Juan Martin Fernandez
Lobbe, includes 14 players who play in Europe, with only flanker Julio
Farias Cabello playing in Argentina.
Very few pundits are giving Argentina a chance of upsetting the
Springboks at Newlands but Pumas coach Santiago Phelan is confident that
his charges will acquit themselves well.
"We always go onto the field with the intention of winning for Argentina. Other people's expectations do not matter to me.
"We as a team will always give 100 percent to produce our best effort and attempt to get the best result," he said.
One thing that could work in Argentina's favour is the similarity of Saturday's two protagonists' game-plans.
Like Meyer, Phelan expects a titanic struggle for forward domination.
"South Africa play a very physical game and it is always difficult
for teams who play against them. They have the players to play a very
dynamic game and they can play a forward orientated game - that is why I
say they are a complete team with excellent players."
South Africa: 15-Zane Kirchner, 14-Lwazi Mvovo, 13-Jean de
Villiers (captain), 12-Frans Steyn, 11-Bryan Habana, 10-Morne Steyn,
9-Francois Hougaard, 8-Keegan Daniel, 7-Willem Alberts, 6-Marcell
Coetzee, 5-Andries Bekker, 4-Eben Etzebeth, 3-Jannie du Plessis,
2-Bismarck du Plessis, 1-Tendai Mtawarira.
Replacements: 16-Adriaan Strauss, 17-Pat Cilliers, 18-Flip van der
Merwe, 19-Jacques Potgieter, 20-Ruan Pienaar, 21-Pat Lambie, 22-JJ
Argentina: 15-Lucas Gonzalez Amorosino; 14-Gonzalo
Camacho, 13-Marcelo Bosch, 12-Santiago Fernandez, 11-Horacio Agulla;
10-Juan Martin Hernandez, 9-Nicolas Vergallo; 8-Juan Martín Fernandez
Lobbe (captain), 7-Alvaro Galindo, 6-Julio Farias Cabello, 5-Patricio
Albacete, 4-Manuel Carizza, 3-Juan Figallo, 2-Eusebio Guinazu, 1-Rodrigo
Replacements - 16-Bruno Postiglioni, 17-Marcos Ayerza, 18-Juan Pablo
Orlandi, 19-Thomas Leonardi, 20-Leonardo Senatore, 21-Martin Landajo,
Referee: Steve Walsh (Australia)