The Springboks’ confidence will be sky-high after drilling the Wallabies at Ellis Park and drawing with the All Blacks in Wellington.
But forwards coach Matthew Proudfoot cited a “30 percent win ratio” in Argentina – since the last World Cup – as one of the main reasons the Boks won’t be expecting things to be straightforward when they face Los Pumas in Salta in their final Rugby Championship clash on Saturday (9.40pm SA time kickoff).
The South Africans have lost twice in three outings in Argentina since 2016, having won one and lost one at high altitude in Salta, and going down 32-19 in Mendoza last year.
So, there’s little reason for them to think that they just have to rock up on Saturday to beat the hosts and clinch the Rugby Championship title.
“We understand the challenges of playing in Salta, having won one and lost one there, and we know it will be another big challenge for us on Saturday,” Proudfoot said at a press conference in Buenos Aires on Monday, where the Boks are preparing before travelling to Salta on Thursday.
“We will be making some brave calls this week, as we did against Australia and New Zealand in the last three weeks, as we prepare for this very important Pumas challenge.
“We understand the challenge of the game having come here last year and losing in Mendoza. We played them before that in Salta and won, and the year before that, we lost to them in Salta. We’ve got a 30 percent win ratio here, so it’s not a great ratio.
“So, we are well aware of the challenge that the Pumas pose when you play them at home.”
Hooker Bongi Mbonambi will hope to get another start to strengthen his World Cup selection bid, and a strong performance against Argentina’s stalwart No 2 Agustin Creevy will secure him a ticket to Japan.
“It’s going to be a big challenge, playing Argentina here. It’s home-ground advantage. It’s going to be more than just a scrum battle,” the Stormers star said.
“Their whole forward pack – they’ve got quite good loose forwards, and Creevy is their hooker. So, it’s going to be a forward battle and we are looking forward to the challenge.
“We have travelled here quite a lot, and the people are passionate about their rugby. We know we are going to face a hostile crowd, but we are looking forward to it.”
But while coach Rassie Erasmus will be delighted with a Rugby Championship title, Proudfoot reminded everyone of the bigger picture.
“We would like to win the game, but our focus is to just continue with the momentum we built (against the Wallabies and All Blacks) and preparing for the World Cup,” he said.
“All four teams in the Rugby Championship are scrambling for momentum at the moment, to try and pick up some momentum before we go to the RWC.
“We have this week and next week Argentina travel to South Africa, so I think it is two nice weeks where the two of us can pick up momentum, and use the opportunities to test the depth in our squads and our strategies before the RWC.”@ashfakmohamed