The Springboks have a chance to win the Rugby Championship for the first time. Photo: John Cowpland/
Unquestionably, the result of tonight’s Rugby Championship match between Argentina and South Africa in Salta matters hugely despite one eye for both teams being on the imminent World Cup in Japan next month.

In fact, it is because of the World Cup that is now just 40 days away from the big Springboks versus All Blacks match in Yokohama that the Boks will desperately want to beat their bogey team and accelerate psychological momentum.

The Boks are feeling good about themselves after two very positive performances against the Wallabies and the All Blacks, and if they do win the game and the Rugby Championship tonight, that will mean their first silverware since John Smit’s all-conquering Boks won the Tri-Nation in 2009.

And that would be grounds for celebration!

Rassie Erasmus and his men will no doubt vividly recall how their matches went against the Pumas last year. In Durban, the Boks were excellent in bullying the Pumas 34-21 only for the tables to be completely turned just a week later in Mendoza.

The Boks were thoroughly deflated by the 32-19 loss, and surely they have been talking about that all week... just how horrible it was to have their bubble burst. And they will have the same feeling again if the defeat of Australia and the away draw with New Zealand are followed by another demoralising defeat in Salta.

I don’t think it will happen. The Boks are an evolving, improving team and they will have learned that painful lesson of last year. I believe they will win. And Rassie has picked a very strong side. The only changes to the Wellington match are in the front row as Malcolm Marx, Steven Kitshoff and Frans Malherbe have reverted to the bench, allowing Bongi Mbonambi, Tendai Mtawarira and Trevor Nyakane a chance to start.

I think it is a clever move by the coach. The front row that is starting know they have been given a chance to make a big impression, and they will come out of the blocks like madmen. Nyakane is in great form and he will know that a big game will edge him ahead of Malherbe.

The Beast likewise knows that he is in a fight for his life as the starting loosehead at Yokohama with Kitshoff.

Obviously the Pumas are not going to be pushovers.

They are on the hunt for back-to-back wins against South Africa for the first time after that win in Mendoza in that last encounter.

Two of the previous three games between Argentina and South Africa at Ernesto Maltearena in Salta have been decided by a margin of two points; however, South Africa won 41-23 in their most recent encounter there.

South Africa’s last seven Tests on the road have all been decided by a single-figure margin; the Springboks’ results have been evenly split during that run, winning three, losing three and drawing once.

South Africa have lost just one of their last five matches in the Rugby Championship (W3, D1), scoring 30 points or more three times in that span. South Africa have scored the most tries (6) of any team in the Rugby Championship in 2019, twice as many as any other side in the tournament.


Argentina: 15 Emilian Boffelli, 14 Santiago Cordero, 13 Matías Moroni, 12 Jerónimo de la Fuente, 11 Ramiro Moyano, 10 Nicolás Sánchez, 9 Tomás Cubelli, 8 Facundo Isa, 7 Javier Ortega Desio, 6 Pablo Matera (capt), 5 Marcos Kremer, 4 Matías Alemanno, 3 Juan Figallo, 2 Agustin Creevy, 1 Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro. Replacements: 16 Julian Montoya, 17 Mayco Vivas, 18 Ramiro Herera, 19 Guido Petti, 20 Tomas Lezana, 21 Gonzalo Bertranou, 22 Benjamí* Urdapilleta, 23 Joaquin Tuculet

South Africa: 15 Willie le Roux, 14 Cheslin Kolbe, 13 Lukhanyo Am, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Makazole Mapimpi, 10 Handré Pollard, 9 Faf de Klerk, 8 Duane Vermeulen (capt), 7 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 6 Kwagga Smith, 5 Franco Mostert, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Trevor Nyakane, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 Tendai Mtawarira. Replacements: 16 Malcolm Marx, 17 Steven Kitshoff, 18 Frans Malherbe, 19 RG Snyman, 20 Francois Louw, 21 Herschel Jantjies, 22 Frans Steyn, 23 Jesse Kriel.

Kick-off: 9.40pm SA time. Referee: Romain Poite (France)


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