ASSISTANT coach John McFarland on Tuesday stressed the importance of the Springboks nullifying Argentina’s strengths on attack and stamping their authority as they hunt their second Rugby Championship victory against the competition rookies in Mendoza on Saturday.
With the clash marking Argentina’s first home game in the inaugural series, McFarland expected the Pumas to lift their standard of play significantly, especially after being exposed to the intensity and quality of rugby in the series last week.
Despite this, McFarland was satisfied with the positives from the Boks’ performance at Newlands last Saturday and he hoped they could build on those this week.
"Every game (in the series) is a different challenge," he said. "They will deliver a passionate performance at home and they will try to execute what they’ve been doing in the last two to three weeks. In my opinion, Argentina are playing a different style of rugby to that which they displayed in the past.
"They are prepared to use their backs more and spread the ball wider, so it is up to us to nullify their threats and force our strengths on them….
"I think their biggest improvement has been their counterattack. In the past they would simply have launched the ball high in the air."
With the newcomers having tried hard to force the Boks onto the back foot with their rolling mauls last week, McFarland said it would be important to counter that area of their game.
"Obviously we don’t want to give them chances to build pressure. But if your line-outs are functioning well and the players are competing well, they (Argentina) should not be able to gain momentum. That said, mauling is certainly one of their strengths and it will be important to deny them chances to get into the game."
McFarland took comfort from the fact that the Boks defended well last week and did not concede breakdown turnovers, despite Argentina contesting the rucks furiously.
Springbok flank Willem Alberts also refused to write off the home side. "This will be a different challenge, and it is something to look forward to," he said.
"Just as we will take a few things from last week’s performance, they would too, and they may want to change a few things (in their game), so we will see what happens."
Springbok head coach Heyneke Meyer will announce his match 22 for the clash on Wednesday. While hooker Adriaan Strauss should take over the No2 jersey from Bismarck du Plessis, who had surgery on Tuesday to repair knee ligaments, Meyer will be hoping wing Bryan Habana recovers from his ankle injury and is able to take to the field.
Habana and lock Andries Bekker rolled over their ankles in last week’s Test and sat out of training on Monday as a precautionary measure. Unlike Bekker, Habana wore a moon boot on the flight to Argentina to prevent extra swelling.
While Meyer conceded it would be a big blow to the team if Habana were ruled out, especially given the number of experienced players on the sidelines with injuries — including No8 Pierre Spies, wing JP Pietersen and Du Plessis — he said there were capable replacements in the squad.
He also said the injuries could prove beneficial as they would give a few fringe players game time, which would grow the depth in the squad.