Johannesburg - Just because the Jaguares didn’t feature in this year’s Super Rugby playoffs, doesn’t mean that the Argentinean national side won’t be a massive threat in this year’s Rugby Championship.
According to SuperSport.com, that’s the message coming out of the Springbok camp as they continue their preparations ahead of a tough competition which starts next weekend in Nelspruit.
The Boks were shocked last year in Durban when Argentina won their first game ever in South Africa, and while the Boks returned a week later to beat them in Buenos Aires and again in the World Cup third place play-off, there is no way they are taking the Pumas less serious ahead of next week’s match.
After some shaky moments in the Test series against Ireland, the Boks will want a more polished performance against the Pumas, who can be a very abrasive team that can make any opposition look good.
And according to Bok assistant coach Johann van Graan, there is a big difference between the Jaguares and the Pumas when they take the field.
“You’ve just got to watch them when they sing the anthem - to see what it means to play for Argentina,” Van Graan said on Tuesday.
“That’s what we take out of it. Once they put on that Argentinean jersey they are a different team.
“They’ve got world class players in their team, and Super Rugby poses a different threat to Test match rugby.
“They’ve had a lot of time together, their head coach is back and obviously he has had some time in the background.
“They know South African rugby in the past few years so they will be very well prepared against the Springboks. Its’ test match rugby and we can’t wait to get going against them.”
Van Graan knows the rugby public expect a lot from the Boks when they start the Rugby Championship with two games against Los Pumas. But he believes the hard work the team has been putting in together without the Lions players will pay off when they get to Nelspruit next week.
“I think we can improve in all areas,” Van Graan offered.
“We’re really happy with our set-piece, but our deliveries from our set-piece could be a lot better. We’ve been working hard with our ball-carriers, we’re facing Argentina first up and they make a lot of leg tackles.
“ We’ve learnt over the past few years and in Super Rugby with the Jaguares that the breakdown is a big fight, as it was with Ireland.
“Your attacking shape and attacking mindset is also important. We didn’t have a lot of time before Ireland and it doesn’t help that we’re a few players this week but we go with what we have.
“We’re working a lot on mindset, formation and breakdown.”
Van Graan said while the Lions deserved a lot of credit for getting to the Super Rugby final, the Springboks would be looking to take positives from all five rugby franchises in their preparations and not mirror themselves simply on one team.
“I think the Lions were fantastic in getting over the advantage line. Their ball carriers run very hard with Elton taking the ball up flat. They made a lot of passes, but their forwards got over the advantage line,” he explained.
“Yes, so there is a bit of perception there. I thought they varied their play well and were fantastic off broken field play once the opposition gave them a turnover.
“ In rugby you learn every day, I think we took something from each of our franchises, and the Lions did fantastically in Super Rugby. You can learn every day.”
And while the Boks will draw on a number of aspects from the Lions’ play, they won’t copy it down to the tee. Playing a side like Los Pumas will bring some interesting challenges and the Boks make the right noises about being prepared.
The proof, as always, will be in the pudding next week in Nelspruit.