Thursday, August 16, 2012

South Africa v Argentina - Preview

The long wait is almost over. After more than a decade of struggling to recieve a fair playing schedule Argentina is now only 48 hours away from debuting in The Rugby Champíonship. It is fitting that Argentina´ first opponent will be South Africa because it was South Africa Rugby who supported the addition of Argentina into an expanded Tri Nations tournament. New Zealand was long against the idea based in part on prefering ton expand, if at all, into the South Pacific to somehow incorporate the Pacific Island antions of Fiji, Samoa and Tonga. Australia was opposed on financial grounds as Los Pumas are considered vastly less profitable in the country than the All Blacks or Springboks. The two against one position meant Argentina were a no chance of entering and needed outside help which came in the form of the IRB. Sadly for global rugby it took Los Pumas World Cup 2007 Bronze Medal finish to actually see changes implemented. It was a case of en the granded stage of them all or long be ignored.

In Rugby World Cup 2007 Argentina were refered to by many as the team of the tournament. Many thought Argentina would actually go all the way. The then Japanese coach, John Kirwan said that Argentina can beat anybody because of the way the play. He had seent he rough side of the glocbal rugby order in Rugby World Cup 2003 when he coached Italy. His team like Argentina´ had a tough schedule of playing four matches in 16 days or less. I do not think it was a coincidence that this World Cup was played in Australia, under the leadership of John O´Neill. The same man has long been a money over rugby person. His attitude towards sport is that it is a business. There is no denying that in the professional rugby profits are essencial but how he distributed schdules for Rugby World Cup 2003 was unfair. Argentina, like Italy, was disgusted and Agustín Pichot summed up the feeling well after Argentina´eliminatio, a 16-15 loss against Ireland in Adelaide. He said now the IRB have got what they wanted. He was referring to the playing schedule that saw Argentina eliminated before England had played its third match. It advantaged the traditional eight members of Australia, England, France, Ireland, New Zealand, South Africa, Scotland and Wales.

Thankfully for global rugby this would not be repeated in 2007 and teams were given a more democratic distribution for their pool matches. But in order to really see things change PIchot and his payers knew they needed to win. The team set out to win all its Pool matches and succeeded. The same tema should have been playing in the Tri Nations back then but was instead left in the wilderness with no actual competition outside of friendlies in June and November and the South American Championship. The teams tournament saw a global shakeup but it took five years for Los Pumas to play in The Rugby Championship. South Africa  knows what it is like to be in the wilderness as the Springboks were unable to play regular test matches fioiod of over a decade due to the country´ apartheid government. It returned to regular international competition in 1992 and democracy returned in 1994 with the election of Nelson Mandela. On the rugby field the rugby relations between the two have improved during this time and in the professional era South Africa has been an ally of the UAR.

The teams are coached by former international players and both are well known in their countries. They have both named some surprizes in their lineups though. The home team has an inexperienced backrow and secondrow and has a player considerably out of form at flyhalf, Morné Steyn. The selection of M Steyn at flyhaff ihas been criticized in South Africa as he did not play well in the June tests against England and also had aa below par season in Super Rugby for the Bulls. He is naturally a defensive flyhalf, he does not have an expansive game. He His speciality is goalkicking and was the best goalkicker at Rugby World Cup 2011. But in 2012 his kicking has suffered which effectively makes his selection poor. With him at pivot South Africa are not the same attacking side as with other players and South Africa has others. In fact, M Steyn ignoring goalkicking would struggle to make the top three. Springboks flyhalves. Ruan Pienaar has been playing superbly at scrumhalf for Ulster and has previously played flyhalf for his country.  Before joining the Irish province he played for the Sharks. The same team has Pat Lambie who is a much better option to organize a backline than M Steyn but he is also on the bench. Out of the match day 22 altogether is Elton Jantjies who also missed out on World Cup selection. He is a genuine talent.

Argentina also have some surprizes with the bigegst one being the non-selection of winger Juan Imhoff. he was a fore for Racing Métro in France this past season and is Argentina´ bet finisher. He has not been selected though. Instead Horacio Agulla and Gonzalo Camaho will start and Lucas González Amorosino will play fullback and cover wing. Many people have voiced their opinions over this with myself included wanting Agulla to play 13. However, Phelan has made some good calls that need to be acknowledged. Agulla was named in the Aviva Premiership Dream Team as the starting right winger this past season while Camacho won the Game Changer of the Season Award. Simply put, they are two different players who had extremely good seasons in England and they also were the starting players in their positions at the World Cup.

Key Match-Up
A very interesting match-up will be Bryan Habana vs Gonzalo Camacho. Habana is a spedster but is not a great worker, unlike Camacho. On the other wing Agulla shold have an advantage over Lwazi Mvovo. The difference between the two teams´ wingers is all about work loads with Phelan going for two wingers who are often used as midfield attackers and get through a high number of tackles. The inside centre battle of François Steyn vs Santiago Fernández sees two Top 14 players face off and will be interesting. Juan Martín Hernández should be  able to get the better of Morné Steyn at flyhalf but the real battles in this match appear to be int he forwards. One such clash is the highly regarded young South African Keegan Daniel who will face Juan Martín Fernández Lobbe. Another of note is Eben Etzebeth vs Manuel Carizza but the real key match-up looks to be that of the Beast Tendai Mtawarira vs Juan Figallo. Both are considerably goods in the scrums, as ball carriers and defenders. The winner of this one on one contest will contribut significantly to his teams chances of success.

History suggests this is going to be a South African win so does the location. But there is no denying the hunger in the Pumas payers and their desire to leave cape Town with a victory. It is certainly a possibility and a strong one. The South American players are amateurrs. Either they play professionally in England or France or they are contracted to the UAR on full-time contracts. Twelve of the starting players are based in France, two in England and one in Argentina. South Africa has a tam of fourteen players from Super Rugby and one based in Northern Ireland. Judging on how both teams have selected this is going to be a game featuring a lot of action in the forwards and, the way South Africa played against England in June suggests that Argentina can certainly win. The prediction is Argentina to win a close one by 3 points.

The teams have met on thirten previous occassions in test matches with South Africa having won every match. The largest winning margin took place in 2008 when a depleted Argentine team faced the Springboks at Ellis Park in Johannesburg. The closed Argentina came to a victory was in 2003 when flyhalf Louis Koen landed a late penalty to win the match 26-25 for the Springboks. However, suggesting that South Arica has never lost against Argentina is not entirely true. In 1982, during the height of apartheid a team made soley up of Argentine players defeated South Africa in Bleomfontein. Playing under the name of the South American Jaguares, Hugo Porta kicked the all-Argentine team to victory. Moreover, Argentina has come close to winning in a number of other times - in 1993, 2000, 2003 and 2005.

Previous Matches
November 06 1993 Argentina  26-29 South Africa, Buenos Aires
November 13 1993  Argentina 23-52 South Africa, Buenos Aires
October 08 1994 South Africa 42-22 Argentina, Port Elizabeth
October 15 1994 South Africa 46-26 Argentina, Johannesburg
November 09 1996 Argentina 15-46 South Africa, Buenos Aires
November 16 1996 Argentina 24-44 South Africa, Buenos Aires
November 12 2000 Argentina 33-37 South Africa, Buenos Aires
June 29 2002 South Africa 49-29 Argentina, Springs
June 28 2003 South Africa 26-25 Argentina, Port Elizabeth
December 04 2004 Argentina 7-39 South Africa, Buenos Aires
November 05 2005 Argentina 23-34 South Africa, Buenos Aires
October 14 2007 South Africa 37-13 Argentina, Paris - Rugby World Cup
August 09 2008 South Africa 63-9 Argentina, Johannesburg

South Africa

1Tendai Mtawarira
2 Bismarck du Plessis
3 Jannie du Plessis
4 Eben Etzebeth
5 Andries Bekker
6 Marcell Coetzee
7 Willem Alberts
8 Keegan Daniel
9 Francois Hougaard
10 Morné Steyn
11 Bryan Habana
12 François Steyn
13 Jean de Villiers (Captain)
14 Lwazi Mvovo
15 Zane Kirchner

Reserves: 16Adriaan Strauss, 17 Pat Cilliers, 18 Flip van der Merwe, 19 Jacques Potgieter, 20 Ruan Pienaar, 21 Pat Lambie, 22 JJ Engelbrecht


1 Rodrigo Roncero
2 Eusebio Guiñazú
3 Juan Figallo
4 Manuel Carizza
5 Patricio Albacete
6 Julio Farías Cabello
7Álvaro Galindo
8 Juan Martín Fernández Lobbe (Captain)
9 Nicolás Vergallo
10 Juan Martín Hernández
11 Gonzalo Camacho
12 Santiago Fernández
13 Marcelo Bosch
14 Horacio Agulla
15 Lucas González Amorosino

Reserves: 16 Bruno Postiglioni, 17 Marcos Ayerza, 18 Juan Pablo Orlandi, 19 Tomás Leonardí, 20 Leonardo Senatore, 21 Martín Landajo, 22 Martín Rodríguez Gurruchaga.

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