Mendoza – The Springboks will arrive in Mendoza on Friday high on confidence but ever so wary of an Argentina team that is half broken and still reeling from the aftermath of the disaster that was of their 73-13 hiding at the FNB Stadium last weekend.
Confidence will be good for a Springbok team that seems to have itself and is living out the potential that coach Heyneke Meyer so eloquently speaks off when openly talking about their desire to become southern hemisphere champions come October this year.
And there is more than enough reasons why the Springboks will believe that their time to ascend to the top of southern hemisphere and ultimately world rugby has come.
The signs were there for all to see when they ran in a record nine tries against a lacklustre Argentina side last weekend and it was no fluke that the Springboks signaled their intent in the Rugby Championship in the emphatic manner that was the massacre at Johannesburg.
The near flawless display of running rugby complimented by a forward onslaught not seen by the Springboks in years would have made even the worst cynic of Meyer’s tenure believe that there is something special that the Springboks are building towards.
While many would have cited the fact that Argentina are nowhere near the Springboks in terms of world rankings and that it was a foregone conclusion that the Springboks would win by a big margin, nobody could have predicted the sheer brutality and ruthlessness with which Meyer’s men displayed last week.
In all the applause that would have emanated from the win, the Springboks travelled to Argentina this week mindful that their journey to redemption was still at its infancy stage and that much still needs to be done before they can beat themselves on the chest and proclaim to be title contenders.
It is easier playing at home in the Rugby Championship and is expected of teams to win their home games but the dividing factor between pretenders and contenders is always how teams do away from home.
The Springboks will face the ultimate test of character when they face off against Argentina at the very stadium where they almost sank to one of their lowest ebbs last year when they drew 16-16 against the Pumas in Mendoza.
It is from that forgettable Test which the Springboks almost lost that Meyer and his troops will cautiously march into Mendoza knowing very well that victory is not guaranteed and that they will need to work twice as hard as they did last week.
As much as the Springboks are overwhelming favourites to up end the Pumas in the most hostile of backyards, it will be advisable for the Springboks to take extra caution at the sentiment and emotion of the occasion.
The Pumas are a proud rugby nation and playing in a city that is steeped in Argentinean history where the famous army general San Martin gathered his troops to liberate the country from Spanish rule, it will come as no surprise that the Pumas will be seeking their own redemption.
But the Springboks realise the sentiment that comes with playing in Mendoza in the same week that the country celebrated the life of their liberator and without any sentiment the Springboks will be desperate to put to rest the demons of last year and the fact that they have not won away from home in the competition since 2009.
“I don’t want to remember that, I try to forget, it wasn’t a nice game for me. A lot of the media crucified me and I try not to remember. But that also keeps us humble and we were definitely lucky to draw that game. They will get a lot of confidence from that and we know it is going to be tough. It is always tough in Mendoza and South Africa has not played well there. This is a mental step for us in our development. We have to play well away from home and last year we won three away from home and that was on the end of year tour, so this is a big challenge for our team. But I don’t remember too much and I don’t want to,” the Springboks coach said this week.
While the South Africans are undoubtedly in a far better place than they were last year, they will know that last weekend’s performance will be meaningless if they don’t replicate it tomorrow against Pumas side that is likely to play with passion in front of their home crowd.
And if they bank on history alone to win them the game as they remain unbeaten in Tests against the Pumas, it is that very same history that could come back to haunt them at the Estadio Malvinas Argentinas.