Rugby Championship

Will Boks topple Pumas in Mendoza? Our pundits weigh in ...

2018-08-24 10:21
Siya Kolisi (Gallo)

Cape Town - The Springboks take on Argentina in Round 2 of the Rugby Championship in Mendoza on Saturday (21:10, SA time). 

Having claimed a bonus-point win against the same opposition in Durban last weekend despite far from their best, the Boks will be seeking improvement on Saturday. 

Because of the dominance of the All Blacks, one defeat is likely to spell the end of South Africa's chances of challenging for their first Rugby Championship title since 2009. 

Building to the World Cup in Japan next year remains the priority, but the Boks and South African rugby in general could do with a strong run in the Championship given the seemingly never-ending disappointments that were dished up during the Allister Coetzee era. 

One glaring concern is the fact that all four of South Africa's Super Rugby sides lost in Argentina this year against the Jaguares. 

It is always a difficult place to go and get a result, and it will be a timely test of how far this Bok side has come in their five Tests under Erasmus. 

Here, Sport24's team of rugby pundits give their predictions ahead of the clash in Mendoza. 

Lloyd Burnard - Boks by 10

I like the fact that Erasmus has shown consistency in his team selection. This Springbok pack is dangerous in all the right areas. It has the muscle, the speed, the set piece and the grit and finesse to do the job at the breakdown. That, as was the case in Durban, is where the Boks will win this game. 

Things will be a lot tighter this time around, and the Pumas will be motivated to get a result in front of their home supporters, but the Boks just have too much quality. 

There is an undeniable feeling of optimism surrounding the Springboks under Erasmus, and there is a fearlessness accompanying their game that was absent under Coetzee. 

Much of that has to do with the confidence that comes with winning, but there also seems to be a clear direction that the Boks are moving in as the 2019 World Cup nears. 

If they finish off their chances, the Boks could win by more, but I reckon 10 points is a safe, realistic margin.

Handre Pollard can also make life a lot easier for his side by avoiding a repeat of his woeful Kings Park kicking performance.

Herman Mostert - Boks by 12

Expect the Springboks to sort out a few hiccups after a rather rusty performance at Kings Park last weekend. 

Even though they scored six tries, the Boks squandered several promising attacking opportunities and Erasmus would have stressed the importance of finishing this week. 

Pollard surely cannot have a worse goal-kicking display than what he dished up in Durban and I expect him to keep the scoreboard ticking against an ill-disciplined Argentina. 

The strong Springbok pack will gradually wear Argentina down and force them into conceding penalties. The visitors will dominate the scrums and I expect an improved effort at lineout time. 

As is always the case in Argentina, the hosts will start with a lot of passion but will eventually run out of puff. 

And the reality is that this Argentine side has been poor for a long time now: the record books show they have lost 23 of 29 matches since the 2015 Rugby World Cup. 

They couldn’t even beat second-string outfits from Wales and Scotland at home earlier this year, and while they now have a new coach in Mario Ledesma, it’s too soon to expect miracles. 

The Springboks will win by a margin of around 12 points.

Garrin Lambley - Boks by 7

The Springboks will be looking for back-to-back Rugby Championship ‘doubles’ over Argentina on Saturday to confirm their recent superiority over their South American rivals.

Following their 34-21 victory at Kings Park in Durban last weekend, Erasmus’ charges will face a far more hostile environment in Mendoza.

The only changes in personnel to the starting XVs of both sides have come, co-incidentally, in the second row, suggesting continuity is the name of the game.

So, expect more of the same - and a similar result come full-time.

In the back of both coaches' minds will be the looming home and away clashes against the Wallabies and more frighteningly, the All Blacks, making victory paramount if the Boks and Pumas are to maintain a title challenge.

For those wishing to have a dabble with the bookmakers, factor in the raucous home crowd, but at the same time remember the Springboks are undefeated in their previous two Tests at the Estadio Malvinas. Springboks by 7 when referee Angus Gardner blows his final whistle.

Rob Houwing - Boks by 7

This swift rematch really will be more like “war”: I expect Argentina to be oozing passion and desperation for the home fixture, and that often gets their crowd into a frenzied, hostile state too.

The first 10 minutes could be absolutely crucial as a statement-maker by either side, including the matter of who gets onto the scoreboard first.

If the Boks can quickly pour some water on the Pumas’ own intentions by striking in the try column, they could already be close to halfway to a victory that might even prove relatively comfortable (remember that they prevailed in Argentina by 18 points last year, when the general sentiment and vibe around them was bleaker).

Even if the hosts do get a head of steam, these Boks under Erasmus have demonstrated several times now this season that they have the calmness to hit back purposefully from a deficit.

 

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