“We would like to win the game, but our focus is to just continue with the momentum we built against the Wallabies and All Blacks ahead of the World Cup”
THE Springboks on Saturday play the first of a home-and-away series against Argentina and while the Rugby Championship title is at stake this weekend in Salta, the return friendly in Pretoria will be all about the World Cup.
The Boks go into Saturday’s match one point ahead of the All Blacks on the Championship standings, and with the Kiwis earlier in the day visiting the Wallabies in Perth, the Boks will know what they have to do in Salta to win the title.
But the Springboks have hardly had it all their way in recent matches in Argentina and Bok forwards coach Matthew Proudfoot says his charges are humble in the extreme.
“We understand the challenges of playing in Salta, having won one and lost one here, and we know it will be another big challenge for us on Saturday.
“We will be making some brave selection calls this week, as we did against Australia and New Zealand in the last three weeks, as we prepare for this very strong Pumas side.
“We understand the difficulty of the challenge having come here last year and losing in Mendoza. We played them before that in Salta and won, and the year before that we lost to them in Salta. So, we are well aware of the challenge that the Pumas pose when you play them at home.”
Proudfoot agreed that a Springbok win in such a tough place would mean a great deal to his team.
“We would like to win the game, but our focus is to just continue with the momentum we built against the Wallabies and All Blacks ahead of the World Cup,” said Proudfoot.
“All four teams in the Rugby Championship are scrambling for momentum before we go to the World Cup.
“We have this week and next week Argentina travel to South Africa, so I think it is two nice weeks where the two of us can pick up momentum, and use the opportunities to test the depth in our squads and our strategies before the World Cup.”
Going into Saturday’s match, the Boks are anticipating domination in the set scrums.
The Springboks have re-established their old strength up front and coach Rassie Erasmus now boasts two equally strong and interchangeable front rows that can attack the opposition for the entire 80-minutes of the game.
This relentlessness power up front was illustrated perfectly in Wellington in the Rugby Championship match when the “back-up” front row came on late in the game and immediately won scrum penalties that gave the Boks opportunities to stage the comeback that earned them the draw.
An enduring recollection of that game was the furious, almost desperate, performance by Tendai Mtawarira when he came on for Steven Kitshoff. The latter has leapfrogged The Beast as the No 1 loosehead prop, and Mtawarira knows it.
Equally, nobody will deny the impact Bongi Mbonambi makes when he comes on for Malcolm Marx, and what about the sensational impact made by Trevor Nyakane when he replaces Frans Malherbe?
Nyakane is arguably one of South Africa’s most under-rated players. He is an excellent scrummager and a strong and skilful ball carrier.
The Boks’ front row depth in the two Championship matches they have played this year, the prospects are frightening.
For the opposition
Against Australia in Johannesburg, Erasmus started with Mtawarira, Mbonambi and Nyakane, and with his first-choice front row in Wellington ahead of the All Blacks match, the Bok coach could still bring on quality in Vincent Koch, Schalk Brits and Lizo Gqoboka.