Hurting Pumas hunting Springboks for revenge in Salta
A narrow loss to South Africa doesn't go down well anymore with Argentina.
Beating the Springboks for the first time last year, on their Durban turf to boot, proved to the Pumas they can be as good as the world's rugby powers.
Now they want to prove they can back it up, not just get it right once in a while. The lack of consistency was underlined when they blew a 10-point lead with nine minutes left against the Springboks in Nelspruit last weekend. The Pumas conceded two tries, lost 30-23, and were kicking themselves for letting South Africa off the hook.
"Before, we thought a win would be a freak result. But now the team believes it is on an equal footing with South Africa," Pumas scrumhalf Martin Landajo said. "A few years ago, losing by so little was good, and we were more or less happy. But now, we are better players, we want to win more, and losing hurts."
The Springboks have a recent history of escapes against them in the Rugby Championship. In Mendoza in 2012, Frans Steyn scored a chargedown try in the 64th minute, and Morne Steyn converted for 16-16. Back in Mendoza again in 2013, the Pumas led 17-16 until Morne Steyn kicked two penalties in the last nine minutes. Steyn, again, kicked the winning penalty in the 76th for the Boks to prevail 33-31 in 2014 in Salta.
They're back in Salta on Saturday, when better, drier conditions are in store after the rain in Nelspruit.
The Pumas realize the Springboks have been playing out the clock at a high level for decades, and while they joined the championship only in 2012, they are frustrated that lessons aren't sinking in fast enough. They know they must keep their heads at the end, keep cool, and not give away cheap penalties.
"We have to regret these losses, and know how to win," backup center Santiago Gonzalez Iglesias said. "We can make that step, and finish off results. We do that by putting the pressure back on our opponents, and be more desperate not to lose than to win."
Coach Daniel Hourcade showed his faith in the Pumas by naming an unchanged XV for the first time in his three years in charge. Center Matias Moroni was available after playing at the Rio Olympics, but Hourcade changed only his reserves, bringing in prop Lucas Noguera and back Lucas Gonzalez Amorosino.
The Springboks made only one change, keeping on tighthead prop Vincent Koch, who earned his third cap during the Nelspruit test after Julian Redelinghuys hurt his hamstring. Loosehead Tendai Mtawarira will, with his 80th appearance, equal Os du Randt's record as South Africa's most-capped prop.
Argentina: Joaquin Tuculet, Santiago Cordero, Matias Orlando, Juan Martin Hernandez, Manuel Montero, Nicolas Sanchez, Martin Landajo; Facundo Isa, Juan Manuel Leguizamon, Pablo Matera, Tomas Lavanini, Matias Alemanno, Ramiro Herrera, Agustin Creevy (captain), Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro. Reserves: Julian Montoya, Lucas Noguera, Enrique Pieretto, Guido Petti, Javier Ortega Desio, Tomas Cubelli, Santiago Gonzalez Iglesias, Lucas González Amorosino.
South Africa: Johan Goosen, Ruan Combrinck, Lionel Mapoe, Damian de Allende, Bryan Habana, Elton Jantjies, Faf de Klerk; Warren Whiteley, Oupa Mohoje, Francois Louw, Lood de Jager, Eben Etzebeth, Vincent Koch, Adriaan Strauss (captain), Tendai Mtawarira. Reserves: Bongi Mbonambi, Steven Kitshoff, Lourens Adriaanse, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Jaco Kriel, Rudy Paige, Morne Steyn, Jesse Kriel.