The Rugby Championship: Fresh-faced Springboks seek Puma revenge


Revenge will be the order of the day for South Africa as they look to hit the ground running in the Rugby Championship with a win over Argentina.

The Springboks finished bottom of the table last year, following up tight defeats to Australia and New Zealand with a disastrous 37-25 defeat to the Pumas in Durban.

That was Argentina's first win against the Springboks - at the 22nd attempt - and they will now go after consecutive Rugby Championship victories for the first time in their history.

Omens are in South Africa's favour, however. Nelspruit's Mbombela Stadium will host the game and the Springboks have won their two previous fixtures there, scoring at least 30 points each time and, prior to an opening defeat to the All Blacks last year, they had opened the Championship with a win over Argentina in three straight editions.

Bryan Habana returns to the Boks XV, while prop Julian Redelinghuys will earn a first start.

"What happened against Argentina last season will not play a role [this weekend]," captain Adriaan Strauss explained. 

"The defeat in Durban belongs to the past.

"We realise, however, that they will play with great confidence after that result."

Habana and Strauss are two of only five players in Allister Coetzee's side with more than 20 caps, but the skipper is enthused by a 2-1 series win over Ireland in June.

"The younger guys bring a lot of energy to the party," Strauss added.

"Many of them have already shown that they belong at this level in the recent series against Ireland.

"That puts my mind at ease. I know they will produce the goods on Saturday. Having said that, I know that the senior guys will help to ease the pressure."

Milestones are in the offing for some of the Pumas' star players.  Agustin Creevy will make his 50th Test appearance, while Nicolas Sanchez is nine points away from becoming the fourth player to reach 400 international points for Argentina.

Juan Imhoff is unavailable for Argentina after his efforts for the rugby sevens side at Rio 2016 - the winger had a hand in all four tries against South Africa last year - to tilt the balance further in the Springboks' favour.

"Although they've got a new coach and the team is relatively new, we never think South Africa are there for the taking," defence coach Pablo Bouza said.

"We've only beaten them once in decades. We have a lot of respect for the teams in the Rugby Championship and at the moment we are ranked ninth in the world and they are third."