PORT ELIZABETH – Springbok coach Allister Coetzee says they will have to “play a complete game” in Port Elizabeth today against an Argentina side he believes will challenge them – unlike the French in June.
The Boks will take to the field for the first time since the 3-0 series triumph over the Tricolores, which makes this Rugby Championship opener even more important – not just because it can only be a positive to get their campaign off to a good start, but also because it’s crucial for the Boks to continue rebuilding after a dismal time last year.
And Coetzee needs no reminding.
During the team announcement on Thursday, the Bok coach said they would have to produce a top effort in all areas.
‘We need to make a step up in all departments,” Coetzee said. “This is much tougher (than in June). We have to be able to play a complete game, we weren’t challenged a lot during the French series.”
One of the areas where Coetzee is expecting a particularly tough battle is the aerial contest.
The Pumas have a number of personnel who are more than capable when it comes to the kicking game, but the Springbok coach believes the hosts' preparation for the Test has been enough to help them “capitalise” on the opposition’s kicks.
“(Nicolas) Sanchez and (Martin) Landajo are great kickers and (Joaquin) Tuculet as well," Coetzee conceded. "Last year we were tested on a small field in Salta and they fired the aerial bombardment, but we’ve prepared well for that and hopefully we can capitalise on it.”
But given the Argentinians’ innovative attacking play, it’s not just their kicking game that should be watched.
Again, it’s something that the Springbok coach knows very well - but he also made it clear the Pumas aren’t the only ones who want to wreak havoc with ball in hand.
“They love to keep ball in hand, so our defence will be tested, especially in broken play - that’s when they’re at their most dangerous. But we’ve done a lot of work.”
“The breakdown is going to be tough, they try and slow your ball down or turn it over because they love broken-play situations.”
“We’ve got to make sure we make good decisions at the breakdowns so we can get quick ball because we love quick ball. We want to score tries. And it’s the same with them. We want to use the width of the field on attack and score tries.”
Another aspect that obviously cannot be ignored in the Argentine outfit is their forward pack.
During the captain’s press conference on Friday, Springbok skipper Eben Etzebeth said the hosts know they have their work properly cut out for them.
“Argentina has a huge pack, we know their potential and we will have to work hard,” the Bok and Stormers lock said.
Argentina’s potential at the lineout is also well-known, and when it comes to his opponent, Tomas Lavanini, Etzebeth offered this: “He’s a very good player, I had several battles with him in the past and it will be a good challenge to face him. I know we have good results in the past, but tomorrow is the future."
So, Coetzee has singled out Sanchez, Tuculet and Landajo for their kicking prowess and Etzebeth knows what Lavanini will bring come lineout time, but there are also other players to watch today.
Flyhalf Elton Jantjies is definitely one of the most important and exciting ones, while Uzair Cassiem’s effort in only his second Test will also be keenly watched by coaches and fans alike.
The second-row pairing of Etzebeth and Mostert promises to be good, and who knows, Port Elizabeth fans might even be lucky enough to get a glimpse or two of an exciting Sharks youngster called Curwin Bosch.
Teams For PE
Springboks: 15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Raymond Rhule, 13 Jesse Kriel, 12 Jan Serfontein, 11 Courtnall Skosan, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Ross Cronjé, 8 Uzair Cassiem, 7 Jaco Kriel, 6 Siya Kolisi, 5 Franco Mostert, 4 Eben Etzebeth (captain), 3 Coenie Oosthuizen, 2 Malcolm Marx, 1 Tendai Mtawarira.
Bench: 16 Bongi Mbonambi, 17 Steven Kitshoff, 18 Trevor Nyakane, 19 Pieter-Steph Du Toit, 20 Jean-Luc du Preez, 21 Francois Hougaard, 22 Curwin Bosch, 23 Damian de Allende.
Argentina: 15 Joaquin Tuculet, 14 Ramiro Moyano, 13 Matias Orlando, 12 Jeronimo de la Fuente, 11 Emiliano Boffelli, 10 Nicolas Sanchez, 9 Martin Landajo, 8 Leonardo Senatore, 7 Tomas Lezana, 6 Pablo Matera, 5 Tomas Lavanini, 4 Guido Petti, 3 Enrique Pieretto, 2 Agustin Creevy (captain), 1 Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro.
Bench: 16 Julian Montoya, 17 Lucas Noguera, 18 Ramiro Herrera, 19 Marcos Kremer, 20 Javier Ortega Desio, 21 Tomas Cubelli, 22 Juan Martin Hernandez, 23 Matias Moroni.
Referee: Romain Poite (France).