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Coach Heyneke Meyer would prefer not to have been drawn to face newcomers Argentina first in the expanded Rugby Championship, but he expects the Springboks to “play the cards they have been dealt” when the teams line up at Newlands on Saturday.
“In a sense, you would like to play them later in the season to see how they travel and what their game plan is,” said Meyer.
“But having said that, I’ve spoken to the players about mental toughness this week – we need to go out and enforce our game plan and I want us to focus on the way we want to play.
“You play each team home and away and I want the players to get into that mind frame, so it doesn’t matter who we play first or last. I want us to deal with whatever cards we’re dealt with because there are no easy games and I think the sooner we get on with it the better.”
Since losing against the All Blacks in last year’s Rugby World Cup quarter-final, Argentina have played just three Tests against what would be considered respectable opposition – sharing the spoils in a two-Test series against a touring France side, after beating Italy, in June.
None of the teams involved in these matches were at full strength and it’s for this reason that the Pumas represent somewhat of an unknown quantity.
“The good thing is that we play them here (in South Africa) first and then fly back (to Argentina) with them next week,” added Meyer. “So they won’t have the edge of waiting there for us to arrive, because they’re a very difficult team to beat at home.
“But we know what to expect from Argentina. They’ve really grown as a nation because a lot of their players play in Europe, and they’re a lot like a South African team – very good in the set pieces, mauling and a very good pick-and-go side.
“One thing we’ll have to watch out for is that they’re very good at playing from your mistakes. If you look at how they beat France (23-20 in Cordoba in June), they played well off turnovers in that match.
“They’ve been together for a while and they’re a very physical side that likes to mix it up. We’re expecting a very hard Test match on Saturday and we need to step up from how we played in the England series.”