Twice world champions South Africa hope a tactical u-turn and recalling a ‘bone collector’ can prevent a second humiliating defeat by Argentina in rapid succession.
After taking 7,941 days to achieve a first Test victory over the Springboks, the Pumas have home advantage in Buenos Aires as they seek to repeat the feat just seven days later.
Argentina scored a stunning 37-25 win in Durban last Saturday — the first against South Africa in 20 attempts spanning 23 years and the first southern hemisphere championship away win since a 2012 debut.
A sixth defeat in eight Tests started a nightmare period for South Africa coach Heyneke Meyer, who apologised to the nation and came under media and trade union fire for not picking enough black players.
Meyer denied claims by national labour umbrella body COSATU that he was a “racist”, then chose a team for Buenos Aires including four black players, one more than he traditionally starts with.
What was supposed to be a final warm-up for the World Cup, which kicks off on September 18 in England, has turned into a Test the Springboks desperately need to win.
To achieve that goal at the 50,000-capacity Estadio Joes Amalfitani, home of Argentine premier league football club Velez Sarsfield, Meyer has opted for an ‘uglier’ approach.
He told reporters before departing Johannesburg for wet, cold Buenos Aires that an attractive, ball-in-hand style was partly to blame for the Durban debacle.
“Last Saturday we played running rugby and kicked the ball only seven times, which should have pleased those who came to see an attractive game,” said Meyer.
“However, we were well beaten. Winning is what it is all about and we need to become more tactical in order to do that.
“Because many Pumas have played in Europe, they adopt a northern hemisphere mindset. Rugby is much more of an arm-wrestle in the north than in the southern hemisphere.
“We lacked a ball-carrying loose forward in Durban owing to injuries, used two ball ‘scavengers’ instead, and were outmuscled.”
Willem Alberts, whose ‘bone collector’ nickname leaves little to the imagination, is a fearless but injury-prone blindside flanker who will attack the Pumas.
Alberts makes his first appearance of the season and in another significant change, Meyer has picked Patrick Lambie at fly-half instead of Handre Pollard, who was booed in Durban.
Lambie has impressed on previous northern hemisphere tours and a good showing this weekend could push him to the front of the World Cup playmaker queue.
While Meyer and his men in green and gold would happily accept the underdogs tag in Buenos Aires, Argentina insist the country who won the 1995 and 2007 World Cup finals are favourites.
“We anticipate a much tougher match than last weekend and are definitely not the favourites,” coach Daniel Hourcade told reporters.
“The Springboks are a very good team and are prepared for a backlash after what happened in Durban. We must be ready for a battle.”
Experienced loose forward Juan Manuel Leguizamon agreed: “Winning this weekend is going to be more difficult because second Tests against the same opponents always are.”
Veteran centre Juan Martin Hernandez said “victories are short-lived and we must look ahead, be humble, train passionately and take heed of what our coaches say”.
Scrum dominance was instrumental in the Pumas’ historic Durban triumph and hooker and skipper Agustin Creevy was unamused by post-match Springbok claims that the South Americans used illegal tactics.
“Maybe it was a technique issue for them (South Africa),” he responded.
Argentina have retained the Marcos Ayerza-Creevy-Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro front row that tormented the Springboks, who have picked a new trio of Trevor Nyakane, Adriaan Strauss and Marcel van der Merwe.
South Africa will be defending a near-prefect record in Argentina having won nine Tests and drawn one while scoring 352 points and conceding 212. – Agence France-Presse