Rugby Championship

Springboks v Argentina - 5 things to look out for

2018-08-18 12:00
Rassie Erasmus (Gallo Images)
Rassie Erasmus (Gallo Images)

Durban - The Springboks and Argentina meet in Durban on Saturday as the Rugby Championship gets underway. 

On paper, the Boks should be far too strong for their South American opponents.

The hosts boast immense power in their pack where the likes of Malcolm Marx, Eben Etzebeth and Pieter-Steph du Toit all provide physicality in abundance. 

The Pumas do have the injection of confidence that will have come with the Jaguares' impressive run in Super Rugby this year, but there is unlikely to be a repeat of 2015 when they stunned Heyneke Meyer's side at the same Kings Park venue. 

Bok coach Rassie Erasmus is in the process of building a side for the 2019 World Cup in Japan, and there are a number of changes from the side that got the job done against England in June. 

Here, we take a look at five things to watch out for from a South African perspective heading into the match. 

Kick-off is at 17:05.

1. How will returning Boks fare?

Etzebeth and Warren Whiteley, who both captained the Boks last year, are back from long injury lay-offs. While their quality is not in question, both players will want to prove a point on Saturday.

Whiteley will know that Duane Vermeulen, absent for the Rugby Championship, is very much the first-choice Springbok No 8 currently while Etzebeth will have looked on as RG Snyman and Franco Mostert both impressed in June. 

Malcolm Marx is also back from injury having missed out against England, while Francois Louw returns to the No 6 jersey

How much of an impact Louw has and how he fits into the current Bok dynamic will be interesting to see. 

2. Two Springbok debutants

Damian Willemse and Marco van Staden will both make their Bok debuts on Saturday. 

Van Staden would have started at No 6 in the June Tests against England, but he was ruled out with injury. He will get his chance on Saturday and will likely come on as a straight swap for Louw.

Erasmus is a huge fan of Van Staden's and he is expecting big things

Willemse, meanwhile, will almost certainly replace Wille le Roux and be given a run at fullback. It is a position where the Boks do have depth - Warrick Gelant and Pat Lambie are both out injured - and Willemse will want to put his hand up with a strong display. 

Erasmus said in the build-up to the game that while Willemse's natural ability is unquestioned, how he responds mentally to Test match rugby will be crucial. 

3. Siya shift and loose forward balance

Captain Siya Kolisi makes the move from openside to blindside flank to accommodate Louw's return. The skipper needs a big performance on Saturday and in the Championships as a whole.

There is no shortage of options in the loose trio and the captain needs to show that he is capable of filling the ball carrying role he has now been given. 

With Vermeulen and Pieter-Steph du Toit not in the loose trio for Saturday, the Bok back row is significantly smaller than the one that played against England. 

Will that have an impact on proceedings?

4. Opportunities for Sharks trio

Lukhanyo Am and Andre Esterhuizen have an opportunity together as the form an all-Sharks centre pairing. With Damian de Allende our injured, Esterhuizen needs to prove that he has the muscle and power to cut it as a Bok No 12. 

Am, meanwhile, has both Lionel Mapoe and Jesse Kriel to contend with for the No 13 jersey. He is being backed by Erasmus currently, but he will know better than anyone that there are others knocking hard on the door. 

Another Shark, Makazole Mapimpi, is given a crack on the wing with S'bu Nkosi out injured. There has been some concern over Mapimpi's aerial ability and his defence, and he will certainly be tested in both of those areas on Saturday.

5. Durban crowd under spotlight

The weather is not playing its part (it is cold and windy in Durban), but it looks like Kings Park will struggle in terms of attendance on Saturday. 

Between 25 000 and 30 000 are expected, though that number could be even lower, and with the capacity of the stadium 52 000 there is the risk of it being less than half full. 

It isn't the most glamorous match, but given the quality on offer in the Bok side and the fact that this is the Rugby Championship opener, the Boks would have been hoping for more. 

Crowds have been an issue for all Super Rugby sides this year, and if we start seeing smaller crowds at Test level then that will be extremely concerning. 

Read more on:    springboks  |  rugby championship  |  durban  |  rugby
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