This campaign has not gone to plan for either of these sides. South Africa have picked up a worrying trend of choking late in big matches, and Argentina have been unable to build off of their first TRC victory last season. South Africa are heavily favored, but they are still testing new combinations, and with the Argentinians showing a lot of grit against the All Blacks, any South African overconfidence could lead to a tighter finish than they would have liked.
This is going to be a dream match for the front rowers out there, and it is easy to see why. These are two of the world’s best scrummaging sides, and they will be going to war up front. Tendai Mtawarira and Bismarck Du Plessis return to the front row, and will be joined by Vincent Koch. It will be the 25 year olds first start for the Springboks, and he will be under a lot of pressure. Marcos Ayerza and Agustin Creevy are two of the best in the world at their positions, and Ayerza will be salivating at the thought of getting a shot at some fresh blood.
Argentina trust Guido Petti and Thomas Lavanini as their two locks. Still relatively untested on the international stage, these two will have their work cut out for them, as they face one of the world’s best second row pairings. 23 year old stalwart Eben Etzebeth pairs with Lodewyk De Jager once again, as the Springboks are forced to contend with life without Victor Matfield for the moment. De Jager will call the lineouts, and will continue his role as a tackling machine having made 18 tackles against the Wallabies and another 8 against the All Blacks.
Heinrich Brussow returns at 6 for the Springboks, who will welcome the return of the hard running Marcell Coetzee. Brussow will need to increase his work at the breakdown without Francois Louw in the lineup, while Coetzee and Schalk Burger will need to set the tempo at the breakdown and nullify the impact of Agustin Creevy and Juan Manuel Leguizamon, who starts on the openside for Los Pumas. Pablo Matera and Leonardo Senatore round out a powerful Puma back row.
Ruan Pienaar and Handre Pollard remain the favored halfback pairing for South Africa, and Pollard will create space for his explosive backline by attacking the line and putting others in gaps. Against the All Blacks, Pollard made 41 meters and setup a try, and Heyneke Meyer will be looking for more of the same. No Nicolas Sanchez for the Pumas as Tomas Cubelli pairs with the experienced Juan Martin Hernandez. Cubelli will look to tire the Springbok forwards with his high paced play and sniping runs, and expect Hernandez to paint the corners and keep the Pumas in the right areas of the field.
Jeronima De La Feunte is another good option to kick from hand for the Pumas, while Marcelo Bosch will want to rediscover his Saracens form in the Argentine 13 shirt. They will face a lot of physicality as they go head to head with Damian De Allende and Jean De Villiers. De Allende was dominant against the All Blacks, making 46 meters, 10 tackles, two clean breaks and beating 6 defenders. De Villiers will lead the Springboks as captain, and look for his hard running and soft hands to put the lethal Springbok back three into space time and time again.
Bryan Habana starts on the left wing for the Boks, and he is joined by the in form Jesse Kriel, who moves from outside center. Kriel has scored 2 tries in as many matches and made a stunning 76 meters against the All Blacks as well as scoring a try and setting up another. I honestly think that he and De Allende should start in the centers for the Boks in the World Cup, especially given the way they destroyed the most capped center pairing in the world. Willie Le Roux starts at fullback and he should give the Pumas headaches with his lightning quick feet and superb running lines. As for the Pumas Juan Imhoff, Horacio Agulla, and Joaquin Tuculet make a deadly group of finishers. Agulla’s power and footwork will attempt to flummox Springbok defenders, and if Imhoff plays as he did for Racing Metro against Northampton in the Champions Cup this year he can do a lot of damage.
Argentina are a growing team, there is no denying that, but I suspect they will struggle against this very dangerous Springbok team. Twice the boks have had the opportunity to win the game, to step on the opposition’s throat, and twice they have missed it. With more and more questions rising about the side ahead of the World Cup, the Springboks will need to right the ship, and fire a warning shot to Scotland, Japan, Samoa, and the USA before the World Cup begins, and what better way to do that, than a dominant win over Argentina.
Prediction: South Africa 35- Argentina 12