Salta – Thirty-five degrees Celsius and a very vocal crowd of just 20000 fans – that’s what awaits the Springboks in their Rugby Championship battle with Argentina here tomorrow.
Just a week after edging Los Pumas in the rain at Loftus Versfeld, the Boks are set for a completely different experience in this north- western town, renowned for its samba music. It’s also very much cowboy country.
Captain Jean de Villiers and his charges only arrived here late yesterday afternoon from Buenos Aires and were met with temperatures they would have hardly experienced at any time this year. De Villiers said they had no problems playing in the hot, dry conditions.
“I’ve played a lot of rugby in my time and I’ve probably come close to it being this hot, but we can’t complain,” he said. “It rained last week and it’s hot this week, so we’ve just got to adapt. It’s the same for both teams, but it’s at least going to be dry, which is better.”
The Boks go into the game after a battling win at Loftus, while Argentina felt they should have won the match last weekend.
Having failed to pick up a bonus point in their first match of the competition – something they did first up in 2012 and 2013 – the pressure to produce the goods today is perhaps a little higher than normal.
“No, I wouldn’t say there’s any extra pressure on us,” said De Villiers. “It’s a funny thing, pressure – it comes down to how much pressure you put on yourself and what your standards are. We let ourselves down in all facets of the game last weekend so our key word this week is ‘improvement’.
“The only area of our game that was on par in Pretoria was our defence; for the rest we need to step up. But there aren’t any question marks about our game.”
The Boks’ disappointing performances here in the last two years have the Argentines believing they can finally beat the Boks, but De Villiers was quick to point out history belongs in the past. “We know we’ve struggled here in the last two years and that’s because Argentina have improved a lot, I’ve always said that. And yes, it’s difficult coming here to play, our job is a difficult one, but I always like to think that if we execute well and follow through on how we want to play, we can beat any team anywhere in the world.
“Past results mean nothing when we run out tomorrow. All we can do is stay motivated and bring the right attitude to the contest, and do it for 80 minutes.”
Asked whether Argentina could prepare themselves for an angry Bok side, De Villiers said: “We always like to be physical – that’s the way the Boks play. We base our game around our forwards and hopefully we can get on top. But we also want an edge and that means playing clever rugby.”
15-Joaquin Tuculet, 14-Lucas Gonzalez Amorosino, 13-Marcelo Bosch, 12- Juan Martin Hernandez, 11-Manuel Montero, 10-Nicolas Sanchez, 9-Martin Landajo; 8-Juan Manuel Leguizamon, 7-Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe, 6-Paul Matera, 5-Thomas Lavanini, 4-Mariano Galarza, 3-Ramiro Herrera 2-Agustin Creevy (capt, right), 1-Marcos Ayerza
Replacements: 16-Matias Cortese, 17-Bruno Postiglioni, 18-Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro, 19-Matias Alemanno, 20-Leonardo Senatore, 21-Tomas Cubelli, 22-Jeronimo de la Fuente, 23-Horacio Agulla
15-Willie le Roux; 14-Cornal Hendricks, 13-Damian de Allende, 12-Jean de Villiers (capt, left), 11-Bryan Habana, 10-Handrè Pollard, 9-Ruan Pienaar, 8-Duane Vermeulen, 7-Juan Smith, 6-Francois Louw, 5-Lood de Jager, 4-Eben Etzebeth, 3-Jannie du Plessis, 2-Bismarck du Plessis, 1-Gurthro Steenkamp
Replacements: 16-Adriaan Strauss, 17-Tendai Mtawarira, 18-Frans Malherbe, 19-Bakkies Botha, 20-Marcell Coetzee, 21-Francois Hougaard, 22-Morné Steyn, 23-Lwazi Mvovo - Saturday Star