South Africa coach Jacques Nienaber delivered some sobering news on the status of key men Handre Pollard and Lukhanyo Am as he named his team for the Rugby Championship clash with Argentina.
Pollard and Am were both injuried in the Wallabies’ win in Adelaide and Nienaber says he’s almost certain they will miss the rest of the year’s internationals.
“I am not 100 percent sure in terms of their [Pollard and Am] return dates, but I think they are out for the end-of-year tour,” said Nienaber. “I would say I am 80 percent sure.”
As they did for their last match against the Wallabies in Sydney, the Boks face Los Pumas with limited No.10 options with the situation worsening when Elton Jantjies was sent home amidst reports of an affair with a female staff member.
Damian Willemse, who impressed against the Wallabies, will wear the No.10 jersey with Francois Steyn providing cover on the bench.
“If you think about us losing Handre and if you think about what happened in the right-wing position, then sometimes injuries are a bad thing,” said Nienaber.
“However, the positive of that is you get to test your depth and you get some experience in your squad and develop your squad.”
Nienaber has named the same starting XV that beat the Wallabies convincingly, and made three changes to the bench.
Loose forward Elrigh Louw takes over from Duane Vermeulen on the bench, Faf de Klerk returns as scrumhalf cover in place of Cobus Reinach, while Andre Esterhuizen gets a run in place of Warrick Gelant.
“We were in a fortunate position this week not to have any injuries, which allowed us the luxury of selecting the same starting team that ran out in our last match,” said Nienaber. “We also feel that this team offers us what we need against a physical Argentina outfit.
“Our first victory in Australia since 2013 gave us a lot of confidence, and I have no doubt that will boost the players’ confidence going into this match, but that said we are expecting a bruising and intense battle against Argentina in front of a hostile crowd, and we have seen in the past how much confidence they draw from their fans at home.
“Our plan from the outset was to give a few players a chance to prove what they can do and to build their Test experience, especially with the Rugby World Cup a year away, and there is no better opportunity to do so than in a match which essentially amounts to a semi-final for us if we want to win the tournament.
“We have fantastic depth within our squad with youth and experience, and it requires a fine balancing act to select a squad that we think will be the best for each match, while at the same time giving most of the players an opportunity to play.”
Nienaber said he expected a tough match in Argentina.
“It’s always tough to play in Argentina,” said Nienaber. “They are a passionate rugby team, and they will never give an inch. They also draw a lot of energy from their enthusiastic home crowd, so we are expecting a huge battle.
“They place a lot of emphasis on their physicality and their set pieces, and they have skillful backs as well, so they will test us in all departments.
“That said, we have been working hard on the areas of our game that we would like to improve on and we were able to give the players a few days off to rest and freshen up mentally last week, which we believe will set us in good stead for the match.
“We know the magnitude of the challenge ahead and that it will take nothing less than our best efforts for the full 80 minutes to register a victory on Saturday.”
Springbok team to face Argentina in Buenos Aires:
15 – Willie le Roux (Toyota Verblitz) – 77 caps, 65 pts (13t)
14 – Canan Moodie (Vodacom Bulls) – 1 cap, 5 pts (1t)
13 – Jesse Kriel (Canon Eagles) – 54 caps, 60 pts (12t)
12 – Damian de Allende (Wild Knights) – 64 caps, 40 pts (8t)
11 – Makazole Mapimpi (Cell C Sharks) – 31 caps, 110 pts (22t)
10 – Damian Willemse (DHL Stormers) – 22 caps, 14 pts (1t, 3c, 1p)
9 – Jaden Hendrikse (Cell C Sharks) – 8 caps, 5 pts (1t)
8 – Jasper Wiese (Leicester Tigers) – 16 caps, 0 pts
7 – Franco Mostert (Honda Heat) – 57 caps, 10 pts (2t)
6 – Siya Kolisi (captain, Cell C Sharks) – 69 caps, 35 pts (7t)
5 – Lood de Jager (Wild Knights) – 62 caps, 25 pts (5t)
4 – Eben Etzebeth (Cell C Sharks) – 104 caps, 15 pts (3t)
3 – Frans Malherbe (DHL Stormers) – 52 caps, 5 pts (1t)
2 – Malcolm Marx (Kubota Spears) – 53 caps, 55 pts (11t)
1 – Steven Kitshoff (DHL Stormers) – 65 caps, 5 pts (1t)
16 – Deon Fourie (DHL Stormers) – 2 caps, 0pts
17 – Ox Nche (Cell C Sharks) – 13 caps, 0pts
18 – Trevor Nyakane (Racing 92) – 58 caps, 5pts (1t)
19 – Elrigh Louw (Vodacom Bulls) – 2 caps, 0 pts
20 – Kwagga Smith (Shizuoka Blue Revs) – 25 caps, 15 pts (3t)
21 – Faf de Klerk (Yokohama Canon Eagles) – 40 caps, 25 pts (5t)
22 – Andre Esterhuizen (Harlequins) – 9 caps, 0pts
23 – Frans Steyn (Toyota Cheetahs) –76 caps, 150 pts (11t, 7c, 24p, 3d)
Rugby – The Roar