Venue: Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, Port Elizabeth
Date: Saturday, August 21
It was hard to know what to expect from the Springboks last weekend in their first Rugby Championship outing against Argentina. The series against the British & Irish Lions was brutal both mentally and physically – hence why there were so many changes in the 23 Rassie Erasmus chose – and there were serious question marks as to a potential hangover for the side following their last-gasp Test series win over the tourists.
In truth, it was basically business as usual for the Springboks as they ran out comfortable 32-12 winners over an Argentina squad that has been desperately short of competitive, high-level rugby over the last 18 months or so. The Argentinians couldn’t repeat their bubble heroics in the shocking win over New Zealand last Rugby Championship, as a much-changed South African side punished their sloppy mistakes and stopped them from crossing the whitewash while running in three tries themselves.
While this is billed as a home Test for Argentina, the continued issues with the pandemic means that this Test will take place at the same Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium that saw South Africa win last Saturday. Expect more fight – and more discipline in terms of both attacking rugby and missed tackles – from the Pumas this week as they will have knocked off some of the cobwebs in their game from one week ago.
Mario Ledesma was disappointed with how his charges coped in the first Test against the Springboks and he has responded by making a number of changes to that side. Six alterations to the run-on side – plus some positional tweaks elsewhere – mean that this team will have a different feel to the one that was far too sloppy in all phases of play last time out. A change in the halves sees Domingo Miotti and Gonzalo Bertranou start, while there is an international debutant on the wing in the form of Ignacio Mendy. The big change in the pack sees Guido Petti move to the flank as Tomas Lavanini and Matias Alemanno try to bolster the scrum at lock.
This will be the ‘Boks fifth Test in as many weekends before their stars get a break until September 12th. It was all change in the backline for the first match against Argentina, but Erasmus has recalled his Lions’ series winners here – perhaps with an eye looking ahead to the upcoming clashes with the All Blacks. That means the Handre Pollard is back in the pivot position, Makazole Mapimpi and the electrifying Cheslin Kolbe are back on the wings, while the dominant centre pairing of Kukhanyo Am and Damian de Allende also return. Eben Etzebeth gets a break in the pack, while there is a debut at lock for Marvin Orie.
South Africa was far too strong for Argentina seven days ago and it is hard to see how that would change for the betterment of the Pumas given the players filtering back into the ‘Boks XV. I like South Africa to win and cover the -12.5 point spread at 17/20 with BetXchange.