DURBAN – Tough rugby, tough conditions, and of course, tough opponents; the Springboks have said all week that they are expecting a backlash, especially from some of the more abrasive Pumas players.
Captain Agustin Creevy, his enforcer and all round bruiser Tomas Lavanini, as well as the silky Joaquin Tuculet, are three for the Boks to keep an eye on.
Creevy is no doubt the heart and soul of the passionate Los Pumas. Latin fire and pride for his national rugby team flow through his veins, and it is because of this that the captain is one of their stars.
He is not only a passionate man, and a good leader of his troops, but can definitely be classed in the upper echelons of the world’s best hookers. The Jaguares man has come on in leaps and bounds since a branch was extended to the South Americans, welcoming them to the elite of Southern hemisphere rugby.
Creevy is all action. He is an astute set piece specialist, which is of course essential in his position, but he is also a menace at the breakdown, a barging ball carrier, a dogged defender, and an intelligent footballer.
Creevy will be geeing up his players for some retribution at home, and if his passion can rub off on those around him, it could be quite a scrap for the Boks. However, Creevy will have to cool his temperament somewhat for French referee Jérôme Garcès as the Spanish-English language barrier causes problems at the best of times, but Spanish to French, via English, could be immensely frustrating.
The two-metre, 130kg lock Lavanini is a hulking brute in the midst of a bruising Argentinian pack. And there is no doubt that he is their go-o man when a little rough-and-tough dominance is needed.
Lavanini has earned himself a bit of a dirty reputation though as he has seen a few suspensions in his time for being malicious in trying to hurt opposition. While there should be no need for this in the game, Lavanini seems to let the dog in him get the better of him sometimes.
However, when the burly lock is operating in the scope of the laws he offers plenty of grunt for an Argentine forward pack that prides itself on the hard work. Scrumming power is provided by this engine, as well as a towering line-out presence, and famous rucking prowess.
Great teams have always been built around enforcers, usually also at lock; the likes of Colin Meads, Frik du Preez, Bakkies Botha, Martin Johnson, and even current Bok captain Eben Etzebeth, are the epitome of hard men.
Argentina’s answer is surely Lavanini, and if he can keep out of the referee’s pocket, and avoid cards and too many penalties, he will be a big bump in the road for the Boks trying to assert their own forward dominance.
It is not all brute and brawn for the Pumas. They have their forwards who build the platform, but they also have the backs who like to launch off said platform.
In Joaquin Tuculet, Argentina can boast one of the most versatile backs in world rugby. The fullback is a slippery customer with a brilliant rugby brain, especially when it comes to figuring out gaps and angles.
Running from the back, with the field at his disposal, Tuculet is more than happy to make himself available in space to take advantage of the brilliant skills and handling across the Argentina team. But he can also create the magic, popping up all over the show.
Speedy and evasive, Tuculet is the ideal game breaker for the Pumas, and a threat the Springboks will need to be wary of. One run from this maestro can break the back of a lot of green and gold effort.
He has done it before to the Boks, scoring tries on the counter and the breakaway. It is exactly that type of try - the type that gets a partisan Salta crowd fired up - that a fledgling Springbok team does not need to deal with come today’s game.