Salta weather forecast lifts Pumas, Springboks for round two

AFP
South African players Jannie du Plessis (L), Bakkies Botha (R) and Ruan Pienaar fight for the ball with Argentina's Ramiro Herrera (L) and Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe during their Rugby Championship Test match in Pretoria, on August 16, 2014
.

View gallery

Salta (Argentina) (AFP) - Argentina and South Africa have been cheered by the weather forecast as they prepare for a Rugby Championship second-round match in provincial city Salta on Saturday.

It is expected to be clear and warm at the 20,000-seat Estadio Padre Ernesto Martearena in the north-western city when the Pumas and the Springboks clash for the second time within eight days.

South Africa were 13-6 winners last weekend in a southern hemisphere tournament opener ruined by unseasonal monsoon-like conditions at Loftus Versfeld stadium in Pretoria.

Persistent torrential rain turned the ball into a bar of soap and swiftly put paid to dreams of the convincing, four-try bonus-point win every Springbok follower had anticipated.

And an impressive display by the Argentine pack has given the South Americans hope that they can finally end a 13-match win-less run since the Championship launch two years ago.

History also offers the Pumas hope as they held the Springboks 16-16 in Mendoza two seasons ago and were unlucky 22-17 losers at the same stadium a year later.

"We are going to play the game we had planned for Pretoria, but could not execute because of the dire weather," Argentina coach Daniel Hourcade told reporters.

His team appears stronger with the return of vastly experienced inside centre Juan Martin Hernandez, a late injury withdrawal from the Pretoria Test.

The other change to the side is also in the backline with Lucas Gonzalez Amorosino replacing Horacio Agulla on the right wing.

"These are changes we anticipated making with Juan Martin returning after being kept out of the Pretoria match by a niggle," explained Hourcade.

"We also wanted to rotate -- but not too much as that could affect the team structure."

Hourcade, who succeeded Santiago Phelan after a six-loss 2013 Championship campaign, says the three changes to the Springboks pack is a compliment to the Pumas.

"They are a clear indication of the problems we created, but the Springboks will come here to fix them."

The demoted South African forwards are loose-head prop Tendai 'The Beast' Mtawarira, veteran lock Bakkies Botha and flanker Marcell Coetzee.

Experienced Gurthro Steenkamp comes in for Mtawarira, youthful Eben Etzebeth replaces Botha, and veteran Juan Smith is recalled after a near four-year absence for Coetzee.

"Awesome," said Smith on hearing he would don the green and gold for the first time since facing England in a late 2010 Test at Twickenham.

An Achilles tendon injury early the following year appeared to have ended his career until French club Toulon offered a short-term contract.

It set up a fairy-tale comeback as the 69-cap Springbok helped Toulon win the French Top 14 title and he scored a try in a European Cup final triumph over Saracens.

South Africa coach Heyneke Meyer is banking on Smith improving a line-out frequently disrupted by the Pumas in Pretoria.

"Our line-outs are a crucial attacking platform with many tries stemming from them and I'm sure Juan will add another dimension.

"Although happy with the result at Loftus, we were not happy with the performance and Salta offers a chance to do much better against formidable opponents.

"Argentina are a proud rugby nation who have improved greatly in recent years and we will have to be at our best to improve on previous Championship results in the country."

Neither of the Springbok Championship saviours in Argentina will start Saturday.

Centre Francois Steyn, who scored an intercept try two season ago, is in a contract-related, self-imposed exile from the national squad.

And fly-half Morne Steyn, who kicked 17 points a year ago, is a replacement this weekend with 20-year-old Handre Pollard given a third start as playmaker.

View Comments (0)