The Springboks were the only team last year to fail and win both matches against Argentina, but it seems that the weakening of Los Pumas should make the opening match between the two sides a less than even affair.
Form seems to be on the South African side. The Springboks have won their last six test matches since the 2012 Rugby championship, beating Ireland, Scotland, England, Italy, Scotland again and Samoa. They look better as Heyneke Meyer enters his second Rugby Championship, with expectations a lot higher than previously, and only two wins won’t go down quietly as they did last year.
For Argentina, the wins over the New South Wales Barbarians might have helped their spirit, but aside from a win over Wales after last year’s championship, losses to France, Ireland and twice against England didn’t really help the Pumas convince many that they’re headed towards winning their first ever match in the competition, especially against South Africa, who they’ve never beaten since the teams met for the first time in 1993.
One of the big surprises in the South African lineup is Adriaan Strauss getting the nod over Bismarck du Plessis, in a move that probably means he’s going to be their number 2 for a very long time. Other changes in the Springboks lineup include Duane Vermeulen at Number 8 with Juandre Kruger in the second-row. Flip van der Merwe drops to the bench, while Pierre Spies is out with an injury. Prop Gurthro Steenkamp and scrum-half Fourie du Preez get a call up to the bench, with both them removed for quite some time since their most recent caps.
For Argentina, there’s a problem of quality, as too many players don’t have a team at the moment. Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe is injured, so Leonardo Senatore starts in the back-row for the usual captain, with Juan Martin Leguizamon and Pablo Matera playing next to him. Matias Diaz starts in place of the injured Marcos Ayerza in the front-row, while Martin Landajo and Nicolas Sanchez will play as half-backs, while the never ending Felipe Contepomi captaining the team at inside centre.
The key man will be fullback Juan Martin Hernandez, with the potential to be one of the more impressive players in this tournament, if he remains injury free and gets an super kind of effort from his less talented teammates. While the battle between Contepomi and de Villiers is quite interesting, the difference in quality on the wings and at half-backs will intruiging, as Argentina try to make up for it with their fullback and the usual huge spirit they bring to matches.
Predictions – Hard to see South Africa being the ones who come out on bottom in this one. Argentina are too weak in too many positions when compared with the rest of the competition, and the Springboks seem to be in excellent form as they keep one eye on the 2015 World Cup.