International Rugby

Argentina v South Africa: 5 Key Battles That Will Shape Rugby Championship Clash

Tom SunderlandFeatured ColumnistAugust 21, 2014

Argentina v South Africa: 5 Key Battles That Will Shape Rugby Championship Clash

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    Themba Hadebe/Associated Press

    South Africa had a harder time overcoming Argentina than might have been expected in Round One of the Rugby Championship, and Heyneke Meyer's side travel to Salta in the hopes that things will be easier this Saturday.

    The wet conditions accounted for a lot of that struggle in Pretoria, but a brighter South American setting will allow for a more entertaining spectacle, logic dictating that would work to Daniel Hourcade's disadvantage.

    We look ahead to the second encounter between these two sides, examining the head-to-head battles that will impact its result most and seeing which team has learnt from the mistakes of Week One.

1. Nicolas Sanchez vs. Handre Pollard

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    Themba Hadebe/Associated Press

    Handre Pollard's second Test start for the Springboks wasn't the glamourous affair he and coach Meyer will have been hoping for, and it was Morne Steyn who came on to give the hosts stability at Loftus Versfeld.

    Ryan Vrede of SA Rugby argued that while South Africa shouldn't shed all their investments in the youngster, Pollard deserves to be dropped in favour of the more experienced Steyn this weekend.

    However, Meyer has chosen to stick with the 20-year-old in the hopes that his potential as a runner of the ball can be unleashed with a firmer grip on matters this weekend.

    Nicolas Sanchez, meanwhile, looked like one of the Pumas' brightest performers in Week One, carrying for the highest yardage of any Argentinian player as he dealt well with the scrappy duties in breaking enemy lines.

    The South African pack will be of vital significance in earning any fly-half the opportunities they need to take shots at goal, but it's also important that Pollard gives his outside backs the chance to open up their stride in sunnier surroundings.

2. Ramiro Herrera vs. Gurthro Steenkamp

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    Christophe Ena/Associated Press

    One area in which Hourcade's men showed some great promise last Saturday was at the scrum, where Argentina were in no mood to be bullied off the set piece by the Springboks' pack weapons.

    Ramiro Herrera, the least-experienced asset among Hourcade's forward ranks, dealt particularly well at times with the responsibilities afforded to him, and the return of Tendai Mtawarira wasn't the rousing success the home outfit might have anticipated.

    As such, Meyer has chosen to give Gurthro Steenkamp the start at loosehead, and the veteran's tactical nous at the set piece will look to give South Africa more of a fighting chance packing down.

3. Joaquin Tuculet vs. Willie le Roux

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    Gallo Images/Getty Images

    Consistency was difficult to come by for any South African back in Pretoria, with handling at a minimum and great running passages few in number.

    That being said, Willie le Roux did still manage to dazzle in small doses and despite the heavens opening, his safety under the high ball was impressive.

    The same couldn't quite be said of Joaquin Tuculet, who wasn't permitted to show the danger his quick feet possess, but again that circumstance could change this weekend.

    Even in the rain, Le Roux's deft feet showed their impact in getting South Africa behind the Argentinian defence, and with a bounce running in his favour, the Pumas would be wise to keep the backfield covered at all times with him targeting.

    Tuculet's positioning will be the priority here, and while he'd undoubtedly revel in probing the Springboks himself, falling victim to the counter speed of Meyer's back three means his attacking input may be limited.

4. Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe vs. Juan Smith

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    David Rogers/Getty Images

    Willem Alberts was named as a late Rugby Championship casualty prior to last Saturday's kickoff, with Marcell Coetzee taking his place in the No. 7 jersey.

    However, Juan Smith's remarkable comeback from serious injury has come full circle after the Toulon man was named as Meyer's starting openside for Saturday's encounter.

    Francois Louw was the man whom many were expecting to be the essential figure at the breakdown, but it was Coetzee who starred against the Pumas, making a game-high 14 tackles in total, an influence Smith is capable of bettering.

    Coetzee's performance eclipsed that of Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe's, although in truth there was only so much the Argentinian could do given the weather, but it's a wrong the former Pumas captain will look to right this weekend.

    Lobbe was uncharacteristically flat against Meyer's men, and he should especially look to come in more often as first receiver in Salta, or failing that make himself available further afield.

    That being said, with Smith now the man set to be grappling at the breakdown, Lobbe isn't likely to come away from that area too often whether his side be in attack or defence.

5. Marcelo Bosch vs. Damian De Allende

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    Gallo Images/Getty Images

    On his day, Damian de Allende can be electric in the way he has the potential for scything through back lines, and the same can be said for Argentina's Marcelo Bosch.

    With back-line fluidity promising to pick up on Saturday, one can expect to see both outside centres used more frequently on Saturday, with De Allende hoping to treat this as a second chance to debut in brighter terms.

    Jean de Villiers will be all the more up for utilising his midfield partner as a resource when his own offloading is bound to be at more of a premium, and Bosch retains a reputation as one of Argentina's danger men when carrying.

    A losing bonus point for the Pumas in Round One was a very acceptable result by all means, but in Round Two, a lot will depend on how the South Americans view this fixture.

    For some, a more cautious approach may be the route to take as Hourcade chases a first-ever win against South Africa for his national team, in which case Bosch would be more restrained in his actions. Or, we could see the Saracen take his chances in pursuit of the dramatic win.

    Either way, there's a certain pressure on De Allende to again prove he's of the Springbok pedigree.

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