Ledesma sees lighter side ahead of Bok clash

Mario Ledesma (Getty)
Mario Ledesma (Getty)

Buenos Aires - Argentina coach Mario Ledesma may have one of the toughest jobs in international rugby, but he has not lost his sense of humour.

READ: Boks to 'do the double' over Argentina - bookies

Ahead of the Rugby Championship return match against South Africa in western city Mendoza this Saturday, he was asked if it was possible to stop the Springboks.

"Maybe if they get sick or something," joked the 45-year-old who this month succeeded Daniel Hourcade as coach of a team that has lost 23 of 29 Tests since the 2015 Rugby World Cup.

Argentina had exceeded expectations at the global showpiece in England, finishing fourth behind champions New Zealand, runners-up Australia and South Africa.

Hourcade resigned two months ago after a disastrous run of mid-year results at home, losing twice to Wales and once to Scotland, both of whom travelled without many stars.

Ledesma was a natural replacement having guided the Buenos Aires-based Jaguares to the Super Rugby playoffs for the first time this year in his maiden season as coach.

But hopes that he could instantly transform Los Pumas into a winning team again were dashed by a 34-21 loss to South Africa in Durban last Saturday.

Argentina were clinical in the first half, building a 14-10 half-time lead, but the power of the Springboks told as the second half progressed.

"They are by far the most physical side in world rugby," said former Pumas hooker Ledesma, who played and coached in France and coached in Australia before returning home.

"We must defend better in Mendoza," he stressed, referring to some soft tries among the six conceded against South Africa in Durban.

Ledesma has not panicked despite a flattering scoreline last weekend with Springboks flyhalf Handre Pollard missing five of seven kicks at goal.

In the only change to the starting line-up, Tomas Lavanini replaces Matias Alemanno at lock with the former dropping to a bench that includes three other alterations from Durban.

In come centre Jeronimo de la Fuente, scrumhalf Tomas Cubelli and hooker Facundo Bosch to replace Santiago Gonzalez Iglesias, Martin Landajo and Diego Fortuny.

Winning with a bonus point enabled South Africa to share first place with title-holders New Zealand, who ran in six tries to overcome Australia 38-13 in Sydney.

Like Argentina, they have made one change, also at lock, with Franco Mostert taking the place of Pieter-Steph du Toit, who is among the replacements.

South Africa has also reshuffled the bench, bringing in prop Wilco Louw and lock RG Snyman for Thomas du Toit and Marco van Staden.

Saturday's Test is scheduled for 21:10 (SA time).



15 Emiliano Boffelli, 14 Bautista Delguy, 13 Matias Moroni, 12 Bautista Ezcurra, 11 Ramiro Moyano, 10 Nicolas Sanchez, 9 Gonzalo Bertranou, 8 Javier Ortega Desio, 7 Marcos Kremer, 6 Pablo Matera, 5 Tomas Lavanini, 4 Guido Petti, 3 Juan Figallo, 2 Agustin Creevy (captain), 1 Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro.

Substitutes: 16 Facundo Bosch, 17 Santiago Garcia Botta, 18 Santiago Medrano, 19 Matias Alemanno, 20 Tomas Lezana, 21, Tomas Cubelli, 22 Jeronimo De La Fuente, 23 Juan Cruz Mallia

South Africa

15 Willie le Roux, 14 Makazole Mapimpi, 13 Lukhanyo Am, 12 Andre Esterhuizen, 11 Aphiwe Dyantyi, 10 Handre Pollard, 9 Faf de Klerk, 8 Warren Whiteley, 7 Siya Kolisi (captain), 6 Francois Louw, 5 Franco Mostert, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Malcolm Marx, 1 Tendai Mtawarira

Substitutes: 16 Bongi Mbonambi, 17 Steven Kitshoff, 18 Wilco Louw, 19 RG Snyman, 20 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 21 Embrose Papier, 22 Lionel Mapoe, 23 Damian Willemse

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