Hourcade: We're not favourites

2015-08-13 19:32
Daniel Hourcade (Getty Images)

Buenos Aires - Argentina's breakthrough first rugby win over South Africa could be swiftly followed by a second.

That would give the Pumas huge momentum heading into next month's Rugby World Cup and sound a warning - if it hasn't been sounded already - that the South Americans should not be ignored.

For one, world champions New Zealand would take notice. The All Blacks begin the defence of their title against Argentina at next month's showpiece in England.

Saturday's 37-25 win over the Springboks in the southern hemisphere Rugby Championship, a comprehensive pummeling of the South Africans in Durban, likely makes Argentina favourites when the teams face off again a week later.

This time it's a World Cup warm-up game in Buenos Aires.

Argentina coach Daniel Hourcade, who called the victory in Durban "maybe the most important one" ever for the South Americans, shied away from the suggestion that for the first time the Pumas were now favourites against the Springboks on Saturday.

"The Pumas are a team capable of winning games, but we are very conscious that we are not at the same level," Hourcade said.

His caution didn't reflect the 80 minutes of rugby that unfolded last weekend.

Argentina's backline ripped through South Africa for a try inside two minutes, then added another three, the Pumas bullied South Africa's scrum to win the forward battle, and at one stage led the two-time world champion 34-13 on the Springboks' home patch.

It was an irresistible combination of Argentina's might up front, and the cutting edge of their backs.

It was also Argentina's first win in 20 games against South Africa since 1993 and prompted Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer to apologise to his country.

"If you don't respect them, that's what happens," Meyer said.

No doubt that South Africa - now approaching crisis with four straight Test losses in their World Cup build-up - will be desperate for something positive in Buenos Aires, their last game before the showpiece.

Yet Argentina already have a strong tradition of pushing South Africa close at home anyway, let alone with the added boost of a victory in South Africa. In the last three games in Argentina, South Africa have won by two points, five points, and there has been one draw.

Saturday's game at the Velez Sarsfield soccer stadium will also probably bring out Argentina's riotous supporters in great numbers with the chance of another landmark win.

"It's going to be even tougher," Meyer said.

Balancing the need to keep players fresh for the World Cup with the need for winning momentum, Hourcade has made eight changes to Argentina's starting 15 from Durban. But crucially, Hourcade retained the front row of Marcos Ayerza, captain Agustin Creevy and Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro, who did so much to dismantle South Africa up front last weekend.

"The scrum is going to continue being an important weapon," Hourcade said.

Playmaker Juan Martin Hernandez also starts again, this time at inside centre and not flyhalf. Wing Juan Imhoff, who scored a hat-trick of tries at Kings Park, also retained his place.

Springbok coach Meyer, under more pressure than he's ever been in four seasons in the job, made nine changes to his starting 15; not so much to rest players, but rather in an attempt to find a winning combination for the first time this World Cup year.

"The only thing that matters is the World Cup and I still think we can win it," Meyer said.


Substitutes: 16-Julian Montoya, 17-Lucas Noguera, 18-Juan Pablo Orlandi, 19-Matias Alemanno, 20-Pablo Matera, 21-Tomas Cubelli, 22-Juan Pablo Socino, 23-Lucas Gonzalez Amorosino

South Africa:

15 Zane Kirchner, 14 Lwazi Mvovo, 13 Jesse Kriel, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Pat Lambie, 9 Ruan Pienaar, 8 Schalk Burger, 7 Willem Alberts, 6 Heinrich Brussow, 5Victor Matfield (captain), 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Marcel van der Merwe, 2 Adriaan Strauss, 1 Trevor Nyakane

Substitutes: 16 Schalk Brits, 17 Tendai Mtawarira, 18 Frans Malherbe, 19 Flip van der Merwe, 20, Pieter-Steph du Toit, 21 Cobus Reinach, 22 Handre Pollard, 23 Jan Serfontein


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