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Rugby Championship: South Africa v Argentina match preview
South Africa will start their Rugby Championship opener in Pretoria as hot favourites to see off the challenge of Argentina.
The Springboks hammered Saturday’s opponents by more than 70 points when the teams met in this competition for the first time last year. Since then Santiago Phelan departed as head coach and under Daniel Hourcade the team has struggled to find its form.
That does not bode well for a team that will be playing the world’s best three teams over the coming weeks. Despite talents among their number such as Marcelo Bosch and former skipper Juan Martín Fernández Lobbe, they look likely to struggle to contain the power, organisation and pace of the home side.
In recent outings the Pumas have been able to create opportunities at times, but have failed to convert these into points with the kind of ruthlessness that they will face from all three of their more exalted opponents.
Prop Ramiro Herrera makes his first start against any of the big three after Saracens’ Juan Figallo was again ruled out through injury, while Tomás Lavanini is another pitched into the starting line-up for the first time against such strong opposition.
South Arica have not lost to Saturday’s opponents in 17 matches and they present a formidable challenge.Heyneke Meyer's men, captained by Jean de Villiers, can match some formidable pack power with pace among the backs through the likes of Bryan Habana and Cornal Hendricks.
Handré Pollard will again line-up at fly-half after an impressive showing against Scotland and he should have the time and space to be creative once again with so much quality and experience around him.
Therein lies a key role for scrum-half Ruan Pienaar, who will want to fire out quick ball to his half-back partner. If he can, then the Springboks’ superior pace out wide should be comfortably good enough to see them through to justify the bookmakers’ prohibitive odds.
South Africa: 15 le Roux, 14 Hendricks, 13 de Allende, 12 de Villiers (c), 11 Habana, 10 Pollard, 9 Pienaar, 8 Vermeulen, 7 Alberts, 6 Louw, 5 de Jager, 4 Botha, 3 J du Plessis, 2 B du Plessis, 1 Mtawarira.
Replacements: 16 Strauss, 17 Nyakane, 18 Malherbe, 19 Etzebeth, 20 Coetzee, 21 Francois Hougaard, 22 M Steyn, 23 Serfontein.
Argentina: 15 Tuculet, 14 Agulla, 13 Bosch, 12 Hernández, 11 Montero, 10 Sánchez, 9 Landajo, 8 Leguizamón, 7 Lobbe, 6 Matera, 5 Lavanini, 4 Galarza, 3 Herrera, 2 Creevy (c), 1 Ayerza.
Replacements: 16 Cortese, 17 Paz, 18 Chaparro, 19 Alemanno, 20 Senatore, 21 Cubelli, 22 Iglesias, 23 Amorosino.