Thursday, August 23, 2012

Argentina v South Africa - Match Preview

Sánchez starts at flyhalf
After only one week of The Rugby Championship the phyiscal demands  of the competition have been vividly expressed. All four participating nations have players missing with Argentina having been hit where it hurts most - at flyhalf. Juan Martín Hernández is out of action for three weeks with a grade one ligament injury. He should be fit to face Australia on the Gold Coast on September 15 but may miss the match against New Zealand one week earlier in Wellington. Replacing Hernández for Mendoza is Tucumán´ Nicolás Sánchez. The youngster was a success story in 2011. He was a part of the Vodacom Cup Championship winning Los Pampas XV. He was the teams first choice flyhalf and impressed both as a playmaker and a goalkicker. He is actually a better goalkicker than Hernández but arguably the second best in the squad after Martín Bustos Moyano who has been a star in France since debuting two years ago.

Rather than shuffle the backs and use Fernández at flyhalf the selection of Sánchez means the team is otherwise unchanged from the one announced earlier in the week. It will be Fernández and Marcelo Bosch in the centres with both essentially being backup flyhalves as Phelan has named no flyhalf on the bench. The decision to start Sánchez is a big call. He has played three tests before. His test debut came in 2010 when he featured in the South American Championship playing in the wins over Chile and Uruguay. His third test appearance was in Rugby World Cup 2011 as a second half replacement against Romania. On that afternoon Santiago Fernández was flyhalf while Martín Rodríguez Gurruchaga was inside centre and the teams goalkicker. He had a problematic World Cup with the boot which plays into the hands of Sánchez.

The bench is significantly different to that from Cape Town. He has named an orthodox three backs and four forwards but has two outside backs - Juan Imhoff and Lucas González Amorosino. Neither are centres but González Amorosino can play flyhalf if need be. As such Phelan has decided he wants a bench with flair as Horacio Agulla is covering outside centre and Martín Rodríguez Gurruchaga is covering inside centre. Juan Orlandi is not on the bench this week as Phelan has opted for just one prop, Marcos Ayerza. He has also not named a secondrow replacement, prefering to select two backrowers - Tomás Leonardí and Leonardo Senatore. Julio Farías Cabello will start in the backrow but can test experience in the secondrow.

Argentina are also without first choice hooker, Agustín Creevy and backrower Juan Manuel Leguizamón. South Africa has made changes in these two positions from the team that won in Cape Town. Bismarck du Plessis will nto play again in the tournament after a serious injury saw him leave the field early in Cape Town. Patricio Albacete´ low tackle has meant one of the African´ leading players will not be in Mendoza. In his place Adriaan Strauss will start while Tiaan Liebenberg will be on the bench. Should Liebenberg get game time it will be his international debut. South Africa are thin on the bench in the forwards with the replacement prop, Pat Cilliers and winger JJ Engelbrecht both only having played one international match. South Africa´ best player from last Saturday´s match, Willem Alberts moves from 7 to 8 with Keegan Daniel being dropped after not having been able to impress against Juan Martín Fernández Lobbe. In place of Alberts on the side of the scrum will be Jacques Potgieter.

Both teams have a similar style of play. The new Argentine style is very much a resemblance of South Africa´game plan. The differene is that South Africa has big players in all positions except wing while Argentina has noticably smaller centres. Argentina´ centres are actually flyhalves who now play in the midfield after having successfully made the move in French club rugby. While Frans Steyn is a playmaker he does not operate as a distributing centre. He is more of a physical player. Santiago Fernández, in contrast is a distributor and, like Juan Martín Hernández has a good pass and offload but neither payer found the required support to exploit the Springboks in this area in Cape Town.

Key Match-Cup
This Saturday will not be solved by scrums, lineouts, rucks or tackles. Both teams excell in this area and will more or less cancel each other out. Examples such as Rodrigo Roncero vs Jannie du Plessis or Juan Figallo vs The Beast will be huge individual contests but it would take an exceptionally bad performance from one to have an impact as the quality of all is so high. The difference will be in the ability to gain significant ground outwide. Should Argentina make history and win the key will be the centres. Argentina´s smsmaller players need to find room to put the back-three, particularly Camacho into space. Santiago Fernández vs Frans Steyn  is the key. There was little difference in Cape Town between them and they have faced eachother previously in the Top 14. Both teams have highly talented wingers and fullbacks and Argentina are likely to have an advantage bthis time around as both Imhoff and González Amorosino will offer fresh legs and quick ones.

Without Hernández Argentina are going to need to really dig deep. El Mago was a strong performer in Cape Town but lacked support with the Pumas backs unable to seemingly adapt to the new rugby that Phelan has the team playing. His loss will be huge and Argentina will have it tough. It is nothing new, however. The Hernández curse has been present since Rugby World Cup 2007. He has never played more than two tests in a row since then without getting injured. Rugby is a team game but some players cannot be replaced. This is not to say that Argentina are doomed from the outset. Los Pumas can certainly win this match and Nicolás Sánchez is a quality player. It should be closer than in Cape Town but the Africans are likely to win. South Africa to win by 8 points.

1 Rodrigo Roncero (Stade Français, France)
2 Eusebio Guiñazú (Biarritz, France)
3 Juan Figallo (Montpellier, France)
4 Manuel Carizza (Biarritz, France)
5 Patricio Albacete (Toulouse, France)
6 Julio Farías Cabello (Los Pampas XV)
7 Álvaro Galindo (Racing Métro, France)
8 Juan Martín Fernández Lobbe (Toulon, France)
9 Nicolás Vergallo (Toulouse, France)
10 Nicolás Sánchez (Bordeaux-Begles, France)
11 Horacio Agulla (Bath, England)
12 Santiago Fernández (Montpellier, France)
13 Marcelo Bosch (Biarritz, France)
14 Gonzalo Camacho (Exeter Chiefs, England)
15 Martín Rodríguez Gurruchaga (Stade Français, France)

16 Bruno Postiglioni (Los Pampas XV)
17 Marcos Ayerza (Leicester Tigers, England)
18 Leonardo Senatore (Los Pampas XV)
19 Tomás Leonardí (Los Pampas XV)
20 Martín Landajo (Los Pampas XV)
21 Lucas González Amorosino (Montpellier, France)
22 Juan Imhoff (Racing Métro, France)

South Africa
15 Zane Kirchner (Blue Bulls)
14 Bryan Habana (Western Province)
13 Jean de Villiers (Western Province)
12 Frans Steyn (Natal Sharks)
11 Lwazi Mvovo (Natal Sharks)
10 Morné Steyn (Blue Bulls)
9 Francois Hougaard (Blue Bulls)
8 Willem Alberts (Natal Sharks)
7 Jacques Potgieter (Blue Bulls)
6 Marcell Coetzee (Natal Sharks)
5 Andries Bekker (Western Province)
4 Eben Etzebeth (Western Province)
3 Jannie du Plessis  (Natal Sharks)
2 Adriaan Strauss (Free State Cheetahs)
1 Tendai Mtawarira (Natal Sharks)

16 Tiaan Liebenberg (Western Province)
17 Pat Cilliers (Golden Lions)
18 Flip van der Merwe ( Blue Bulls)
19 Keegan Daniel (Natal Sharks)
20 Ruan Pienaar (Ulster, Northern Ireland)
21 Pat Lambie (Natal Sharks)
22 JJ Engelbrecht (Blue Bulls)


  1. the formula for the pumas to beat the boks is actually simple - and brutal: if i were phelan i would bring the fight to the forwards with good teamwork and bio-mechanics....bloody them up front....throw them back....treat them like a playground bully....stun them.... a bloody nose right off the whistle....let them know its going to be a long sticky in your face rugby....look to jam them....most of all....PUT PRESSURE ON THE HALFBACKS !!!!....

    if we are not putting pressure with our forwards on their halfbacks for 60 are not goint to find room in their defense to unleash imhoff and amorosino....end of story....our pack simply has to be better than theirs and it needs to throw them back on their heels.... and i dont care how big they are.... consistently....