Argentina v South Africa: Five talking points as Springboks aim to extend unbeaten run
Last Updated: 25/08/17 11:50pm
The Boks are aiming to extend their unbeaten run in 2017 when they take on Argentina on Saturday, live on Sky Sports Action from 8.15pm.
After a disastrous 2016 the Springboks have made some tentative steps towards their former powers by beating France 3-0 in the June series and beating the Pumas 37-15 in their Rugby Championship opener last week.
Have the Boks been tested?
The Springboks are unbeaten in 2017, with their four victories so far equalling the amount of wins they registered out of their 12 Tests last year. But have they been tested?
France are currently ranked eighth in the world, while Argentina are tenth. As the old saying goes, you can only play what's in front of you, and in defence of the Boks they are yet to win a Test this year by less than 22 points.
Last year was a horror show for Allister Coetzee's men, but at home they just about held their own. The losses they suffered were glaring - a record loss to the All Blacks and a first-ever home loss to Ireland - but other than that they beat Australia, Argentina and Ireland twice over the course of the year at home.
For the most part, the wheels didn't come off for the 2007 champions until they went on the road for this fixture a year ago. They lost away to the Pumas, the Wallabies and the All Blacks, and at the end of the Championship they went on a November tour which provided no victories in three Tests.
Bok skipper Eben Etzebeth said during the week that his side aren't going to allow their away form - and last year's first-ever loss to the Pumas in Argentina - as they look to banish the demons of 2016.
"The team must banish from their minds the idea that we are always going to struggle in Argentina," said Etzebeth. "We need to prepare well, get our mindset right and believe we can go there and win."
Despite all that has gone right for the South Africans this year, they now enter a difficult part of the year as they hit the road, and will be well aware that their unbeaten season will be tested at the first hurdle in Salta.
After decades of being known for a feared and powerful forward pack, Daniel Hourcade's Argentina side have recently become a potent threat with ball in hand.
Emiliano Boffelli was their standout performer in this area in last weekend's contest - his Rugby Championship debut - scoring a try and setting up another in the process.
This included the try of the match when Joaquin Tuculet spun out of contact and made a blistering break before passing to his winger Boffelli, whose grubber kick found Martin Landajo to finish the move.
The visitors outperformed South Africa in metres made, making 411 from their 121 carries to the Springboks' 378 from 132.
With an electric back three of Joaquin Tuculet, Ramiro Moyano and Boffelli named for Saturday's game, and the flair of Juan Martin Hernandez reinstated at fly-half, the Pumas attack could prove to be their best chance of troubling the Springboks.
The Springbok scrum was well and truly on top when these sides clashed at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium last week.
Beast Mtawarira had one of his best games in recent memory, on more than one occasion helping the Pumas front row defy gravity, while Malcolm Marx has more than filled the void left by Bismarck du Plessis. Add to that the man-of-the-match performance of tighthead Coenie Oosthuizen, and you have a Bok front row capable of doing damage once again in Salta.
However the Sharks No 3 shrugged off suggestions he was at the heart of South Africa's dominance in the win, paying credit to the efforts of the leadership group in the squad after the match.
This week that leadership group has the same task of helping the Boks to a win over Argentina, but the front row faces a new challenge with a fresh batch of props lining up against them in Salta.
Lucas Noguera Paz replaces Tetaz Chaparro due to injury, while the more experienced Ramiro Herrera comes in for Enrique Pieretto as Hourcade looks to bring a solid platform for the Pumas.
If the Springboks once again dominate the scrums, it could be a long evening for the hosts.
It is all change for Argentina in the half-back department as veteran Juan Martin Hernandez takes over at fly-half from Nicolas Sanchez and he will be partnered by Tomas Cubelli, who comes in for Martin Landajo.
South Africa are also faced into a change in personnel with Francois Hougaard returning to South Africa's starting line-up in place of the Ross Cronje. Elton Jantjies retains his place at fly-half.
Hernandez will provide his side with an extra attacking edge, during the 27 minutes played against the Springboks last weekend he beat two defenders, made three carries and two offloads.
With Sanchez taking a place on the bench, the 35-year-old will have to showcase his team's talents and not just his own if the Pumas are to succeed.
At scrum-half the men who had to be content with places on the bench are given the chance to shine. Although an enforced change the inclusion of Hougaard will provide the Springboks with 44 caps worth of experience in the centre of their team.
His 18 minute cameo off the bench last weekend saw him make an immediate impact on the team with two offloads and four carries and the Worcester man is sure to be keen to carry on where he left off on Saturday.
Both previous contests between the two sides in Salta, situated some 810 miles north west of Buenos Aires, have ended in narrow victories, one for each side.
The Boks edged matters 33-31 in 2014 while Argentina turned the tables last year.
Allister Coetzee's debut campaign in 2016 became a horror show as the Springboks lost eight of their 12 Tests. Heading into the summer series against France the pressure was almost unbearable, but the Springboks came through with a whitewash victory to put them back on track, further confirmed with their victory last weekend.
The Pumas are themselves going through a rough patch, having won just two of the 12 Tests they have played since that 26-24 win.
Argentina: 15 Joaquin Tuculet, 14 Ramiro Moyano, 13 Matias Orlando, 12 Jeronimo de la Fuente, 11 Emiliano Boffelli, 10 Juan Martin Hernandez, 9 Tomas Cubelli, 1 Lucas Noguera Paz, 2 Agustin Creevy, 2 Ramiro Herrera, 4 Matias Alemanno, 5 Tomas Lavanini, 6 Pablo Matera, 7 Tomas Lezana, 8 Juan Manuel Leguizamon
Replacements: 16 Julian Montoya, 17 Santiago Garcia Botta, 18 Enrique Pieretto, 19 Marcos Kremer, 20 Javier Ortega Desio, 21 Martin Landajo, 22 Nicolas Sanchez, 23 Matias Moroni
South Africa: 15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Raymond Rhule, 13 Jesse Kriel, 12 Jan Serfontein, 11 Courtnall Skosan, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Francois Hougaard; 1 Tendai Mtawarira, 2 Malcolm Marx, 3 Coenie Oosthuizen, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 5 Franco Mostert, 6 Siya Kolisi, 7 Jaco Kriel, 8 Uzair Cassiem
Replacements: 16 Bongi Mbonambi, 17 Steven Kitshoff, 18 Trevor Nyakane, 19 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 20 Jean-Luc du Preez, 21 Rudy Paige, 22 Curwin Bosch, 23 Damian de Allende