Argentina name several changes after All Black defeat last round while Springboks are unchanged.
Argentina’s Australian coach Michael Cheika made seven changes to his team announced on Thursday for the weekend clash with world champions South Africa in Buenos Aires.
Reeling from a painful 3-53 defeat to New Zealand in their last outing, Cheika decided to change both props, with Eduardo Bello introduced at loosehead and Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro at tighthead as Thomas Gallo and Joel Scalvi drop to the bench.
There are two more changes in the pack with Matias Alemanno recalled at lock and Juan Martin Gonzalez picked at blindside.
Gonzalo Bertranou gets the nod ahead of Tomas Cubelli at scrumhalf, with Jeronimo De La Fuente returning from injury at outside centre and Lucio Cinti picked on the left wing.
Bertranou, Cinti, Gonzalez and Alemanno all started in the Pumas’ historic first-ever win over the All Blacks in New Zealand three weeks ago, but were then dropped to the bench the following week when Argentina recorded their worst defeat to the three-time world champions since joining the Rugby Championship.
With two wins – they also beat Australia 48-17 in San Juan last month – and two defeats, Argentina remain in with a chance of winning the Rugby Championship for the first time.
They face an unchanged South Africa team from the starting XV that kept their championship hopes alive two weeks ago with a bonus-point 24-8 win in Australia.
The match will be played at the Libertadores de America Stadium on Saturday after the original venue, the Jose Amalfitani stadium, failed a pitch inspection at the beginning of the week.
Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber named an unchanged starting team for their must-win Castle Lager Rugby Championship match against Argentina in Buenos Aires on Saturday, with the coach making only three changes to the replacements bench.
Talented young loose forward Elrigh Louw takes over from Duane Vermeulen on the bench, while Faf de Klerk returns as scrumhalf cover in place of Cobus Reinach, while Andre Esterhuizen gets a run in place of Warrick Gelant.
With New Zealand on 10 log points, and the Springboks, Australia and Argentina trailing by only one point each on nine points– although Nienaber’s men are currently in second place on the standings due to a favourable points’ difference – all four teams are under pressure to win their remaining matches and preferably with bonus points to give themselves the best possible chance of winning the title.
With the Boks coming off a strong showing against Australia in Sydney in their last match two weeks ago, where they registered a convincing 24-8 bonus-point victory, Nienaber opted to retain the starting team that laid a strong foundation for the victory.
“We were in a fortunate position this week not to have any injuries, which allowed us the luxury of selecting the same starting team that ran out in our last match,” said Nienaber. “We also feel that this team offers us what we need against a physical Argentina outfit.
“Our first victory in Australia since 2013 gave us a lot of confidence, and I have no doubt that will boost the players’ confidence going into this match, but that said we are expecting a bruising and intense battle against Argentina in front of a hostile crowd, and we have seen in the past how much confidence they draw from their fans at home.”
Commenting on the changes among the replacements, Nienaber said: “Our plan from the outset was to give a few players a chance to prove what they can do and to build their Test experience, especially with the Rugby World Cup a year away, and there is no better opportunity to do so than in a match which essentially amounts to a semi-final for us if we want to win the tournament.
“We have fantastic depth within our squad with youth and experience, and it requires a fine balancing act to select a squad that we think will be the best for each match, while at the same time giving most of the players an opportunity to play.”
Zoning in on the match against Argentina, Nienaber said they expected a hard grind.
“It’s always tough to play in Argentina,” said Nienaber. “They are a passionate rugby team, and they will never give an inch. They also draw a lot of energy from their enthusiastic home crowd, so we are expecting a huge battle.
“They place a lot of emphasis on their physicality and their set pieces, and they have skillful backs as well, so they will test us in all departments.
“That said, we have been working hard on the areas of our game that we would like to improve on and we were able to give the players a few days off to rest and freshen up mentally last week, which we believe will set us in good stead for the match.
“We know the magnitude of the challenge ahead and that it will take nothing less than our best efforts for the full 80 minutes to register a victory on Saturday.”