News Column

Gutsy game asked of vulnerable Boks

August 22, 2014

Heyneke Meyer is big on character. He lauds gutsy efforts and toughing it out. Well, he will be banking on exactly this when the Springboks face Argentina in a Rugby Championship match in Salta tomorrow.

The Boks have hardly been convincing against top-class opposition recently, edging Wales in Nelspruit by the narrowest of margins and then last weekend, in a wet Pretoria, doing just enough to kick off their competition challenge with a 13-6 win over tomorrow's opponents.

In between, they hammered Scotland - hardly a feat worth crowing about.

Meyer's team has been on wonky ground for some time and that does not bode well for tomorrow's match.

On their two previous visits to South America, the Boks had to work extremely hard just to avoid defeat - they actually drew in Mendoza two years ago - and they could be in for a similar rough ride in Salta.

How will the Boks respond? That is the big question around the team going into the match.

Man for man, the Boks are a better outfit than their Argentine counterparts, but it is a Bok side that is far from settled. Several key men are missing through injury - chief among them Victor Matfield and Fourie du Preez - while many others who come into the side have only just got back from injury lay-offs.

Eben Etzebeth has just over an hour's game time behind him since sitting out from the end of last year.

Juan Smith has been nursing a hamstring problem and only trained in parts this week. What's more, the 33-year-old will be playing Test rugby for the first time in nearly four years.

Are these two key figures - players who are being asked to boost the lineout and get their team on the front foot - fully fit and in the right shape to do the business?

Loosehead prop GurthrÖ Steen-kamp, tasked to strengthen a Bok scrum that looked a little creaky in Pretoria, hasn't had a lot of game time either in recent times.

As he is coming off his off-season with Toulouse, he can't be in prime shape either.

Add to this the fact that Meyer has backed young HandrÈ Pollard to lead the team from flyhalf - a player full of promise and potential, but still very inexperienced at this level - and Damian de Allende is still new to the set-up and you have a Bok team the Argentines will feel they can knock over.

Daniel Hourcade's men came close at Loftus; he in fact said afterwards they had squandered a golden opportunity to register a win, and they will believe this weekend is their big chance.

They would have gained much confidence from their showing in the wet weather, but will be pleased conditions will favour a quick, up-tempo game tomorrow.

The Boks will arrive in Salta, in the north-west of the country, from Buenos Aires today knowing they need a big, gutsy effort if they are going to win this Test. In situations such as these, victories are built on character and doing the basics well. That is what the Boks need to produce.

Cape Argus

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Source: Cape Argus (South Africa)

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