The Springboks will be supercharged when they tackle Argentina in their final game on South African soil before the World Cup in Johannesburg on Saturday, writes Quintin van Jaarsveld.
The clash at Ellis Park will bring the Rugby Championship to a close with South Africa needing a full house and for the All Blacks to get nothing out of their game against the Wallabies in Melbourne in order to win the truncated tournament.
Australia v New Zealand
Saturday, 29 July – 11:45
Even the most optimistic Springbok supporter must concede that the chances of the table-topping All Blacks, after their dominant wins over Argentina and South Africa, leaving the Melbourne Cricket Ground without at least the single log point they need to retain the Southern Hemisphere crown is close to an impossibility.
The Wallabies have been woeful, their proper thumping by the Springboks in Pretoria compounded by a shock loss to Argentina on home soil. Eddie Jones is still trying to put his stamp on the team in his second go-around as coach and there’s a real sense that things could go from bad to worse this weekend.
On the other hand, you’d expect the Wallabies to lift their game against their arch-rivals. They were similarly written off in last year’s corresponding clash and would’ve won if not for the infamous Bernard Foley time-wasting incident. That said, Australia still lack the physicality and grit up front to compete against the best teams in the world.
The All Blacks, meanwhile, flexed their muscles in this department against the Springboks and showcased their complete game, overwhelming the world champions with lethal running and intelligent, accurate kicking.
They’ve had a stranglehold on the Bledisloe Cup since 2003 and have won eight of their last 10 (with one draw) meetings against the Wallabies, who’ve won just two of their last 20 Bledisloe matches. Even if Ian Foster does decide to give a few fringe players a run with the World Cup in mind, the All Blacks are primed for a convincing win.
South Africa v Argentina
Saturday, 29 July – 17:05
The 35-20 loss to the All Blacks was disappointing and essentially cost the Springboks the Rugby Championship title, but it’s nothing to get hung up on. Though a missed opportunity, it didn’t reveal any systemic flaws to be concerned about. Rather, it was a case of starting cold and paying the price for it.
That won’t be an issue this weekend. Playing in front of an expectant capacity crowd, the men in green and gold’s intensity will be off the charts in their farewell fixture. The focus will be on getting the basics right after they missed plenty of first-time tackles and made elementary mistakes in the first 20 minutes that decided the duel in Auckland.
The Pumas will pitch up to Ellis Park full of belief after their triumph Down Under and will serve as a good test for the world champions. They’re a team with character, which wasn’t just evident in their last-gasp heroics in Sydney but also in Mendoza the previous week when they put a horror first half behind them and won the second against New Zealand.
The breakdown, in particular, will be an area the Pumas will test the Springboks. Michael Cheika’s charges bossed this contest against Australia and they’re set to flood the contact points in pursuit of quick ball and turnovers against the beefy Boks.
The hosts should have a clear advantage in the set pieces and have long dominated the gain line battle against the Argentinians. That’ll be the case again. A focus on executing the fundamentals will see South Africa go from strength to strength and with plenty of flair in the backline, they’ll ultimately secure an emphatic victory.