Buenos Aires – Warm and dry – that’s the weather forecast for this weekend’s Rugby Championship match between South Africa and Argentina in Salta.
The news will be greeted with relief by the Springboks who almost came unstuck in the wet at Loftus Versfeld last weekend; the 13-6 result in favour of Heyneke Meyer’s team meaning they will be a little desperate to play in good conditions this weekend as they look to bag a much-needed bonus point.
But long-term weather predictions are not always accurate, as was experienced in Pretoria last Saturday when the heavy rain and hail could hardly have been forecast. Either way, the Boks know they’re in for another mighty tussle with Los Pumas, especially now that their hosts will be full of confidence and the Boks perhaps a little deflated after missing out on winning convincingly on the Highveld, something they’ve done on both previous occasions against Argentina in the competition.
Added to that, the Boks looked a fairly beaten bunch when they arrived here yesterday – after spending nearly 24 hours in the air and at airports after departing from Johannesburg on Sunday night.
Meyer will only have two training sessions with his men this week, one today and one tomorrow and then the Boks head up north to Salta, in the Lerma Valley, 1 152m above sea level.
If the conditions are good this weekend then expect the Boks to go all out to bag a bonus point they feel they missed in Pretoria.
“What we lost here, we have to gain elsewhere,” said Meyer after Saturday’s Test at Loftus. “We’re going to try and win and get the bonus point there.”
Captain Jean de Villiers added: “The goals will be different,” referring to his team’s mindset going into the Salta fixture.
The good news for the Boks is that Meyer will in all likelihood be able to call on two powerhouses for the match. Both Eben Etzebeth and Juan Smith are in line to start this weekend. Smith, who was recalled to the squad in place of injured Victor Matfield, was unavailable for selection in Pretoria because of a hamstring tweak, but he is confident of playing this weekend, while Etzebeth only played from the bench last Saturday.
The Boks, without Matfield in the ranks and Willem Alberts also missing because of an injury, were found wanting in the line-outs at Loftus. But with Etzebeth and Smith potentially back in the pack, the visitors will certainly be strengthened. Etzebeth could step in for Bakkies Botha, while Smith will probably take the place of Marcell Coetzee, who slotted in at the last minute on Saturday.
Also, newcomer Warren Whiteley could be a further line-out option from the bench if he were to get the nod from Meyer. The Lions captain has been in prolific form this year and is one of his team’s go-to guys in the line-out. He said he would look to contribute in any way.
“I just want to get on the training field now and learn as much as possible,” he said yesterday.
“I’m going to give it my all... I don’t know what the coach’s plans are, but I want to contribute in any way he wants.” - The Star