South Africa decided to take a chance last weekend with some of their younger up and coming players, and were rewarded handsomely with a comprehensive victory over a full strength Argentinian side. This weekend it’s Argentina’s turn to roll the dice, as their youngsters are given a shot at the World Champions and all their big guns. There are still plenty of wise and experienced heads in the forwards, but in the backs Pumas Coach Mario Ledesma has decided to throw caution to the wind and see how his newer charges face up to an increasingly impressive looking Springbok outfit.
It was an uncharacteristically poor performance from the Pumas All Stars last weekend, juxtaposed against a clinical and for the most part ruthlessly efficient and physical challenge from the Springboks. Furthermore, while the Pumas struggled to string any attacking plays together, South Africa’s three tries were a joy to behold and which made a mockery of the recent allegation that the Springboks brand of rugby is boring. If that’s boring then I guess you could start using espresso coffee as a sedative. In short we thoroughly enjoyed it! More of the same please gentlemen.
Argentina weren’t necessarily all that bad, but appeared to be trying things that were simply far too complicated at times. Rugby is a very simple game in reality, and Argentina would do well to go back to the basics this weekend. Some of the passing moves if they had worked would have been spectacular, but the problem was they weren’t working and as the game wore on they just became desperate. With it the Pumas frustration levels mounted, their discipline went out the window and South Africa was able to deny Argentina any kind of momentum. South Africa weren’t perfect, but they got so many of the basics right compared to Argentina’s efforts at trying to reinvent the wheel, that it ultimately ended up being a very one sided contest.
Argentina should be better this week, but South Africa are building up an impressive head of steam after their Lions series win and last weekend’s dismantling of a quality Pumas outfit (at least on paper). So here’s what got us talking about this weekend’s second round of action in Port Elizabeth.
A long awaited start and time to make his mark again
Springbok Hooker Malcolm Marx gets the nod as the starting 2 for the first time since South Africa’s opening match of the World Cup against New Zealand, if you can believe it. Since then Bongi Mbonambi has been the preferred starting option with Marx coming on as part of the now famous “Bomb Squad”. This Saturday the roles are reversed and Mbonambi leads the high explosive charge off the bench. Marx’s performances haven’t quite hit the highs he established leading up to the World Cup, so Saturday’s dustup with Argentina will be a golden opportunity to reestablish his dominance of the jersey for South Africa. He’ll be up against an able opponent in the shape of Argentina’s Julian Montoya, but accuracy at lineout time has been problematic for both sides of late. When Marx is on song he is arguably one of the best in the world, but he needs to find the form that made him such a force leading up to the World Cup. We saw glimmers of it during the Lions Tour and last weekend, but this weekend the Springboks will be hoping for some vintage Marx.
Just don’t make him angry!
Once Argentina’s poster boy for red cards, giant second rower Tomas Lavanini is not someone it’s wise to mess with. He does seem to have got his temper slightly under control, and there is no denying the kind of physicality he brings to Argentina’s forward pack. He is the Pumas enforcer provided he can stay on the right side of the referee. Fortunately for him, he won’t have South Africa’s master mood rattler Eben Etzebeth to contend with and trying to wind him up this Saturday. Instead it’s Marvin Orie who will have to try and keep him in check, and despite Lavanini’s temperament and card history, he may be just the player Argentina need to unsettle what was last week one of South Africa’s most effective units. He will be ably assisted by Matias Alemanno, and provided that they stay the right side of the referee’s whistle they could make life very difficult for Orie who has yet to impress in the green jersey for South Africa.
Do NOT kick the ball to this man!!!
Seriously don’t – just don’t! Springbok number 8 Jaspar Wiese was Man of the Match last weekend and deservedly so. In only his third start for South Africa he made life an absolute misery for Argentina last Saturday in Port Elizabeth. Admittedly the Pumas struggled to learn from their mistakes and insisted on constantly kicking the ball to him, but he was simply imperious under the high ball. He carried, he tackled, he made turnovers and as already mentioned caught every ball that came his way and made decent meters with every catch. Unfortunately, Argentina’s Rodrigo Bruni despite his superb sprint to try and prevent the Cobus Reinach try, simply couldn’t match Wiese in his effectiveness.
Remember when Malcolm Marx burst onto the scene and we all sat around asking “who is this guy”? Well we had a similar sense of deja vu last Saturday. It was an outstanding performance from start to finish from the Springbok rookie and it looks like there is lots more to come. If he keeps this up, expect him to get the nod to start against the All Blacks next month even if the legendary Duane Vermeulen is fit by then.
A different kind of Faf
Reinach’s brilliant solo try last weekend which saw him sprint almost the entire length of the pitch, was a sight to behold. When it comes to entertainment value it doesn’t get much better than that. However, there was far more to Reinach’s performance in last Saturday’s match than simply that spectacular piece of razzle dazzle. His kicking was almost perfect and caused all kinds of problems for Argentina particularly if it had Jaspar Wiese’s name on it. He effected a superb turnover and provided crisp service to his forwards. Occasionally he missed the odd tackle, but overall that was a pretty solid performance and made Argentina’s pair of Felipe Ezcurra and Gonzalo Bertranou seem inconsequential by comparison. He’ll face up to Bertranou for much of Saturday’s match and as a result may not have such an easy ride of it, but we’d still argue that he is the class offering at nine in Port Elizabeth this weekend.
Who is Ignacio Mendy?
A fair question as Argentina’s Coach Mario Ledesma rolls the dice and let’s the world have a look at under 20s sensation and more recently Tokyo Olympics Sevens bronze medallist, Ignacio Mendy. It’s a tall order to earn your first Test cap against the World Champions on their own turf. Furthermore, your opposite number, South Africa’s Makazole Mapimpi seems to be in a class of his own right now. Still what an opportunity for the 21 year old fullback, who for this match will ply his trade on the right wing even if it could well be a baptism of fire. It’s a leap of faith by Ledesma, but Bautista Delguy failed to deliver last weekend as part of a back line that seemed to want to play a rather elaborate and complicated passing game without the core skills to pull it off. Consequently, maybe it is the right call to give a younger player known more for what he can do by simply running the ball a chance.
We got it rather wrong last weekend and perhaps talked up Argentina’s chances a bit too much, especially as the hype didn’t live up to the actual performance. On paper it’s theoretically a weaker side that Argentina are trotting out this weekend, but therein lies the possible twist in the tail as it’s a side that the Springboks will not be so familiar with, especially in the backs. Nevertheless given South Africa’s dominance with a supposed B team over Argentina’s A team last weekend, it’s hard to see anything other than another convincing win for the Springboks. However, write any Pumas side off at your peril and South Africa will know that. What Mario Ledesma’s charges may lack in terms of experience they will certainly make up for in pride and passion, and few can doubt their skill levels.
In short, we certainly don’t want to miss this one, and think that you won’t either. We very much doubt it will be boring and our only regret is that we don’t get another chance to see Springbok utility back Aphelele Fassi in action again – the contest between him and Mendy could have been riveting. With Covid getting it’s claws into International Rugby arrangements once again, enjoy this match as it could possibly be our last blast of Rugby Championship action till next month, as the authorities in charge try and figure out where the remainder of the tournament will be held.
Till then take care everyone and enjoy the rugby! We’ve gone through the team sheets in more detail over on the podcast if you’re interested.