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Cape Town – The Springboks will not underestimate newcomers Argentina, according to coach Heyneke Meyer, as the national side's quest of becoming a dominant force in world rugby picks up steam when they take on the Pumas in their Rugby Championship opener at Newlands on Saturday.
“I think they are a great side and they have proven it,” Meyer said on Friday.
“They just beat France in the June Tests, and you don’t just beat France unless you are a great side.
“It is great for the competition (the inclusion of Argentina) and just like South African Super Rugby sides, they will get used to the travelling and become better with time.
“It is great to have a new nation in the Rugby Championship.”
While the Boks have challenged for the Tri-Nations title with Australia and New Zealand since 1996, the Pumas will make their debut as the fourth team in the tournament this season.
South African rugby has over the years been likened to a bigger brother to the Argentines, but come Saturday there will be no love lost between the two sides.
The Boks have a 100 percent winning record in 13 games against the tourists, while Argentina will be eager to send a clear message that they are no longer the Cinderella team of world rugby as they turn out at Newlands for the first time.
The South American team have always had a great affinity for scrummaging, an area in which they have excelled more than any other facet of the game.
Meyer has had the luxury of continuity in selection with the all-Sharks front row of Tendai Mtawarira, Jannie and Bismarck du Plessis more than capable of countering the Argentine scrum.
Despite a 2-0 series victory over England in June, the Boks will hope for an improved performance from their flatfooted showing in the final Test in Port Elizabeth where they drew 14-14.
South Africa had little time to prepare for that series as Meyer had only a week to gear up his troops before the first Test in Durban.
Springbok captain Jean de Villiers said they were a more settled side after spending some time together.
“We’ve been together for two weeks,” the skipper said.
“I think the preparation was much better than it was before the English series.”
De Villiers did not quite know what to expect from the visitors but believed they would pose a challenge to the Boks, especially among the forwards.
“They’ve been waiting for a hell of a long time to be in this competition,” he said.
“They’ll come out firing and we’ll be prepared for anything.
“They're a team that pride themselves on their forward play and they have a flyhalf (Juan Hernandez) that can really dominate and control the game.
“They’re a quality side and that’s why they’ve been included in this competition, so I think a lot of people are backing them to truly spring some surprises in some of the games this year.” – Sapa