Saturday sees third play fourth in the Rugby Championship, as South Africa and Argentina go head-to-head. Trevor Oakland previews the clash for Pundit Arena.
Ahead of this weekend’s clash, the good news for visitors Argentina is that the game is being played in Durban; a sea level venue where altitude issues will not be a problem. Sadly, that’s where the good news ends for Los Pumas!
Recent head to head results do not paint a pretty picture for the South Americans:
2014 (A) South Africa won 33-31
2014 (H) South Africa won 13-6
2013 (A) South Africa won 22-17
2013 (H) South Africa won 73-13
2012 (A) South Africa draw 16-16
The last three meetings between the sides have resulted in close battles, with the highest winning margin being no more than a converted try. Argentina will be hoping to go one better this time around but given their team selections to date in this competition, it looks unlikely.
Daniel Hourcade appears to have used the games to try out a number of lesser lights in order to fine-tune their starting XV come the World Cup next month.
To be honest, the same can be said of South Africa, it’s just that they have a much larger pool of quality players to call on and this Saturday they will be looking to put their narrow loss to New Zealand behind them. The game was undoubtedly one they let slip towards the end, albeit culminating in a controversial match-winning try from All Blacks captain, Richie McCaw.
Conditions look set to be fair for the match on Saturday, with a dry and sunny week leading up to KO time. This is in total contrast to the inclement conditions on show when these sides last met on South African soil. The torrential rain played into Argentinian hands, as they turned the game into an error strewn arm wrestle, with the Boks eventually running out winners by a converted try with a total of just 19 match points scored. Things will be different this time around, of that you can be sure.
South Africa have a slightly unbalanced look to their backline, with young sensation Jesse Kriel starting out on the wing. Kriel had been playing at outside centre for his opening internationals but plays at fullback for his province. This should make for interesting viewing as the wing offers a different challenge to the young star.This writer hopes Kriel sees enough of the ball to do some damage from the number 14 shirt.
The return of captain Jean de Villiers is another interesting talking point and the neutrals hope the world class centre can get back to his best following a lengthy lay off that has seen him out of top flight since last November.
Seeing ames such as De Villiers and others on the team sheet must ring bells of fear in Argentinian ears and if they gel on the day, as this writer expects them to, there’s no doubt that the Boks have the potential to put at least 50+ points on the board.
The Pumas have axed half of the side that started against the Wallabies in Round Two and a cursory look at how they have approached this tournament suggests they have no real interest in gaining championship points. The focus appears to be on viewing their squad as a whole and providing the fringe players with precious game time.
At the time of writing Los Pumas’ starting XV has not been announced, but looking at the 26 man squad, one fears that whoever lines up on Saturday could be in for a very long afternoon. Argentina lack any real cutting edge at the moment and unless their pack can keep things tight for 80 minutes, something that is highly unlikely given the opposition and playing conditions, their defence will be running on empty after 60 minutes. Be certain about it, a potential hiding is on the cards.
As there is absolutely no value to be had by lumping on heavy favourites South Africa (1/12), the bet advice is the handicap. The Boks are poised to tack on a heavy score and -18 still poses value.
Selection: Handicap bet – South Africa (-18) at 10/11
Longshot: South Africa to win by 41-50 points at 12/1
The Springboks look a solid bet as they will be hurting after their two narrow defeats in the first two matches, while Argentina could very well ship a heap of tries in what looks to be a one sided game.
Trevor Oakland, Pundit Arena.