Argentina v South Africa preview: Boks’ and Pumas to scrap for third place
Argentina faces South Africa in the RWC third-place play-off at the Olympic Stadium on Friday: 8pm kick off
Springboks make two changes with Victor Matfield and Ruan Pienaar coming into the starting XV
Injury-ravaged Pumas forced to make nine changes
The bronze final is the one match nobody wanted to play when the Rugby World Cup kicked off, but Argentina and South Africa’s meeting tonight at London’s Olympic stadium is set up to be a tightly contested match.
The Springboks and the Pumas have met 21 times in Test rugby, with the Springboks winning 19 and the Pumas once.
However, that victory came in August this year, with Argentina earning their first win against their southern hemisphere rivals during the Rugby Championship clash in Durban.
That success also meant the South Americans finished off the bottom of the Championship for the first time since their inception in 2012.
However, an injury-ravaged Argentina tonight are without the likes of playmaker Juan Martin Hernandez, captain Agustin Creevy and try-scoring winger Juan Imhoff, who has touched down five times at this RWC.
The decimated Pumas have made in total nine changes to the side that lost 29-15 to the Wallabies in their semi-final. There are four changes in the forwards and five in the backs.
With Skipper Creevy ruled out, Nicolas Sanchez leads the side for the first time. The half-back is the top points-scorer (89pts) at the RWC and has been impeccable from the tee for the Pumas.
Meanwhile, South Africa have made two changes to the team that narrowly lost out 20-18 to New Zealand in last week’s Rugby World Cup semi-final.
Victor Matfield is the headline returnee; the 38-year-old record cap holder is set to captain the Springboks on his 127th Test and final ever appearance on the international stage while Ruan Pienaar is in for Fourie de Preez at scrum-half.
Coach Heyneke Meyer gave his players three days off following their gut-wrenching 20-18 defeat by New Zealand last time out, but they were back in training at their Guildford base on Wednesday.
While it will undoubtedly be a big night for Matfield, Bryan Habana will be aiming for his own personal celebration as he looks for a record-breaking 16th World Cup try on Friday evening. The winger is currently tied at the top with New Zealand stalwart Jonah Lomu on 15 tries.
Du Preez, who is on the bench and Schalk Burger, who starts in the back-row, could also both be making their final international appearances for the Boks’.
Fly-half Pat Lambie could win his 50th cap if he comes off the bench
Up until the semi-final stage Argentina had been playing a level above the Springboks, however, Heyneke Meyer’s men proved they can still perform at a high standard when they ran close to knocking out tournament favourites New Zealand last weekend. In a game that will be decided by small margins, the Pumas injury troubles probably mean they will fall short.
South Africa by 10
PLAYERS TO WATCH
In a game where both teams will need motivating the two Captains could potentially play crucial roles.
Argentina: Nicolas Sanchez
The fly-half has been the heartbeat of Argentina’s Rugby World Cup campaign. Sanchez, who is the top scorer of this year’s competition so far with 89 points, also Captains the Pumas tonight.
When you combine his leadership responsibilities with his role as goalkicker, it’s hard to argue anyone is more crucial to Argentina’s starting XV than the half-back.
At the tender age of 27, it will be fascinating to see how he goes up against Matfield.
South Africa: Victor Matfield
Matfield defines the attributes required to be a world-class modern-day second row: tall, powerful, mobile and with great hands. During his 126 Test caps with the Springboks, he played a crucial role in South Africa claiming the 2007 World Cup in France.
Besides almost always winning his own line-out ball, Matfield is known for his exceptional skill at disrupting opposition line-outs, which was a critical asset to the Springboks during their triumph eight years ago.
The second-row will be looking to end his Test career on a high.
Argentina (revised): 15 Lucas Gonzalez Amorosino, 14 Santiago Cordero, 13 Matias Moroni, 12 Jeronimo De La Fuente, 11 Horacio Agulla, 10 Nicolás Sánchez (c), 9 Tomas Cubelli, 8 Juan Manuel Leguizamon, 7 Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe, 6 Javier Ortega Desio, 5 Tomas Lavanini, 4 Matias Alemanno, 3 Ramiro Herrera, 2 Julian Montoya, 1 Juan Figallo.
Replacements: 16 Lucas Noguera, 17 Juan Pablo Orlandi, 18 Santiago Garcia Botta, 19 Guido Petti, 20 Facundo Isa, 21 Martin Landajo, 22 Santiago Gonzalez Iglesias, 23 Juan Pablo Socino.
South Africa: 15 Willie le Roux, 14 JP Pietersen, 13 Jesse Kriel, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Handre Pollard, 9 Ruan Pienaar, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Schalk Burger, 6 Francois Louw, 5 Victor Matfield (c), 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Bismarck du Plessis, 1 Tendai Mtawarira.
Replacements: 16 Adriaan Strauss, 17 Trevor Nyakane, 18 Jannie du Plessis, 19 Lodewyk de Jager, 20 Willem Alberts, 21 Rudy Paige, 22 Pat Lambie, 23 Jan Serfontein.
Date: Friday, October 30
Venue: Olympic Park, London
Kick-off: 20:00 GMT
Referee: John Lacey (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Glen Jackson (New Zealand), Chris Pollock (New Zealand)
Television match official: Graham Hughes