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Springboks show respect for The Pumas

The Mandela Tribute Test between South Africa and Argentina at Coca-Cola Park in Johannesburg on Saturday is not a mere warm up for the Tri-Nations, but a full-on test against one of the world’s best outfits.

That was made very clear by Springbok coach Peter de Villiers on Friday.

“This is full-on Test. I will not offend a very good international side by using them as a trail for another Test,” he said.

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“We are proud to represent our nation on the rugby field against Argentina.”

It is indeed not an easy run. The visitors are playing for the right to be allowed into one of the world’s top competitions – probably the expanded Tri-Nations.

They are not at full strength, and they are playing the experimental laws (the so-called ELVs) for the first time. Most of their players are also in their off-season. That in itself puts pressure on the Springboks.

They cannot afford to stumble or even stutter against a side with these ostensible drawbacks. The Pumas have concentrated on the organisation of their defense.

They have also worked hard on their lineouts to counter Bakkies Botha and captain Victor Matfield who will be playing in their 42nd test as a pair. The Springboks have prepared for a huge onslaught from the Pumas forwards. That was also made clear by forward coach Gary Gold.

“We know they are especially tough up front,” he said.

“They’re good at scrum time, but also tough generally – and that includes all facets such as lineouts, their drives, the scrums..and we have prepared accordingly.”

Gold said that the Boks have given special attention to the scrums where the Pumas over the years have been regarded as a pace-setter in world rugby.

“Last week we had live scrums against the other Boks in the squad, and this past week we practiced against the Lions Under-21s.”

The Pumas backs have been priming themselves not to run into gaps and not into the Boks themselves.

“They are the most physical side in the word,” said returning fullback Bernardo Stortoni earlier in the week. “We will avoid confrontation when we have the ball,” he explained.

And the Pumas backs are not to be taken lightly either. They have experience, pace and are renowned for their ability to create. Springbok backline coach Dick Muir is therefore understandably wary of the tourists.

“As back combinations go, they have threats all over. I’m looking forward to a big one,” said the Springboks’ backline coach.

He was quite non-plussed as to why there was so little supporters hype before a Test that the Boks obviously regarded as very important.

The Boks’ respect for the Pumas was underlined by Andy Marinos, SA Rugby’s manager of national teams.

“Argentina have come here with their full side (unlike some Northern hemisphere countries),” he said.

“They did their best to bring their best side and are pushingh very hard to be allowed into a major competition like Sanzar’s. This Test will be a first step towards that goal,” Marinos said.

It is going to be tough match for the Boks – and as important as the scoreline will be the structure and cohesion of a Springbok side that also has to beat the All Blacks next week in Cape Town to retain their aspirations opf winning the 208 Tri-Nations series.

But first things first – and that’s the Mandela Test.

Sapa –

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