South Africa assembled in the Argentine capital of Buenos Aires over the weekend after completing a week of training in Auckland, New Zealand, ahead of their final Rugby Championship match of the season.
Argentina host the Springboks in the high altitude town of Salta this weekend in the final match of a truncated Rugby Championship which will decide the 2019 title.
Victory and a bonus point for Rassie Erasmus and his men over the Pumas will guarantee them their first title in a decade.
There’s much to play for in Salta over the weekend.
The Springboks have a one-point advantage over the All Blacks at the top of the Rugby Championship standings after a bonus point win over the Wallabies in Johannesburg and a thrilling comeback draw with New Zealand in Wellington.
While the team maintains that they have their feet firmly planted on the ground and they will not get ahead of themselves, Assistant Coach Matthew Proudfoot understands that big moves and brave decisions still need to be taken to record a victory against a rejuvenated Pumas outfit.
“We understand the challenges of playing in Salta, having won one and lost one there, and we know it will be another big challenge for us on Saturday. We will be making some brave calls this week, as we did against Australia and New Zealand in the last three weeks, as we prepare for this very important Pumas challenge. We understand the challenge of the game having come here last year and losing in Mendoza. We played them before that in Salta and won, and the year before that we lost to them in Salta,” says Proudfoot.
The bigger picture though is the Rugby World Cup that is now just weeks away and all the teams are scrambling to get on the front foot ahead of the tournament in Japan.
“We would like to win the game, but our focus is to just to continue with the momentum we built against the Wallabies and All Blacks and preparing for the World Cup. We have this week and next week Argentina travels to South Africa. So, I think it is two nice weeks where the two of us can pick up momentum, and use the opportunities to test the depth in our squads and our strategies before the RWC,” says Proudfoot.
Bongi Mbonambi, who for most of his career had been coming off the bench for the Springboks, has been part of an impressive front row this season, with Beast Mtawarira and Trevor Nyakane propping him up at hooker.
The three are likely to be in the match-day squad for Saturday’s stern test against the all-powerful Argentine pack.
“Playing Argentina on their home track is going to be a big challenge. They have home crowd advantage and they always have their tales up in-front of their home crowd. And I mean they have been together since Super Rugby and now this the internationals. For us, it is going to be a mall and a scrum battle and their whole forward pack. They have a good set of loose-forwards and now Creevy is there – their hooker. So, it is going to be a forward battle and I am looking forward to it,” says Mbonambi.
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