The Springboks and Pumas will look to finish the Rugby Championship on a positive note on the Gold Coast on Saturday, writes Quintin van Jaarsveld.
Winless Argentina will be up first as they renew hostilities with Australia before South Africa get another shot at New Zealand.
Argentina v Australia
Saturday, 2 October – 9:05
It’s been a long, hard and fruitless slog for the Pumas. They’re winless, tired, irritated and feel disrespected as frustrated coach Mario Ledesma expressed after his team’s 27-8 loss to the Wallabies last weekend. As we predicted, the beleaguered Argentinians were no match for Australia as they crashed to their fifth consecutive defeat.
Ledesma’s scathing post-match comments were understandable. He felt them being left out of the captains’ photoshoot to promote last weekend’s double-header after they’d made prior concessions, was a slap in the face and it’s certainly not a good look for SANZAAR, whose apology afterwards did little to paint them in a better light.
Having said that, Ledesma’s remarks were as worrying as his charges’ toothless performances this season as the Pumas tend to spiral into spitefulness when they feel slighted. When they’re in that frame of mind, they spoil the opposition’s ball with little care of repercussions, which come in the form of cards more often than not and put their energy into antagonising their adversaries instead of seeking avenues for success.
Their coach’s outburst indicates to me that the Argentinians will be in a foul mood and will reveal their bad side. It’s clear that the current crop is not on the same level as the other teams. The best-case scenario is that they go down fighting admirably like last weekend instead of embracing their bad side, but I’m leaning toward the latter. Either way, it’ll be a lopsided clash in clear conditions.
South Africa v New Zealand
Saturday, 2 October – 12:05
Jacques Nienaber’s team selection tells you everything you need to know about the world champions’ desire to topple the All Blacks. Having already surrendered the Rugby Championship crown to their unbeaten arch-rivals, there were murmurs that the Springbok coach might use this final fixture to reward squad members such as Elton Jantjies for their sacrifice and commitment with starting berths, however, he’s made just two injury-enforced changes with Ox Nché coming in at loosehead and Jasper Wiese returning among the replacements.
For 77 minutes, the Springboks’ much-maligned kick-heavy game plan worked in last weekend’s historic 100th Test between rugby’s greatest rivals. Then Jordie Barrett slotted a clutch long-range penalty goal before habits overtook instincts in the most costly of ways with both Faf de Klerk and Herschel Jantjies kicking good attacking ball away.
While the vastly improved performance reiterated that South Africa’s style of play is effective if executed correctly, the heartache at the death highlighted the need for players to be afforded the freedom to call audibles when required. With the end result being a third loss in a row, it’s imperative that the men in green and gold depart from Down Under with at least one win and handing the All Blacks their first loss of the season would make up for a lot of their shortcomings this campaign.
The Springbok brand of rugby is no secret, but having had a reminder of the power and aerial bombs they bring, the All Blacks will be better prepared for this return fixture. I’m expecting the Kiwis to cut down on the error count that was uncharacteristically high last weekend, and as a result, they should clinch a close but more convincing win this time around.