The Springbok selection to take on a tricky Argentinean side may be a far cry from the team that beat the British and Irish Lions, but it is imperative they keep the Bok standards up high on Saturday.
The match in Gqeberha will kick-off at 5.05 pm.
The Boks have build up a formidable set-piece game in the Lions series and since the World Cup — the trademark of their success thus far.
But there has been a gulf between the starting line-up and the reserves, and one of the greatest threats to the Boks progress currently is that they need a squad rather than a starting 23 that can step in at any time.
And this weekend will be one of the greatest tests of that strategy.
The Boks second stringers are already licking their wounds after being shown up by the Bulls in their one game since getting together as a squad, and many of them haven’t had a lot of rugby in the past few weeks.
The inclusion of players such as captain Siya Kolisi, locks Eben Etzebeth and Lood de Jager, and the midfield duo of Jesse Kriel and Frans Steyn has given some familiarity for the side and a boost in terms of experience, but there is a real need for some of the fringe players to take the step up.
There is no doubt part of the Boks victory in the World Cup came from the fact players could be managed properly in the lead-up to the tournament when a separate team was sent to play Australia and Argentina and the starting line-up was allowed to prepare for the bigger games.
While the scenarios are different, the challenge is just as great, and if the Boks take another step forward against a tough Argentina side this weekend, it will lay a foundation for a similar campaign going into the away games in the Rugby Championship.
And so, while they’d love to play the same team for the fourth week in a row, the battle of attrition means the Bok management have no choice but to give the wider squad a go.
And the performance of the Bok forwards will very much determine the outcome of the game.
SPRINGBOKS: 15 Damian Willemse, 14 Sbu Nkosi, 13 Jesse Kriel, 12 Frans Steyn, 11 Aphelele Fassi, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Cobus Reinach, 8 Jasper Wiese, 7 Kwagga Smith, 6 Siya Kolisi (capt), 5 Lood de Jager, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Wilco Louw, 2 Joseph Dweba, 1 Ox Nche. Substitutes: 16 Malcolm Marx, 17 Trevor Nyakane, 18 Vincent Koch, 19 Marvin Orie, 20 Marco van Staden, 21 Dan du Preez, 22 Herschel Jantjies, 23 Morne Steyn.
ARGENTINA: 15 Santiago Carreras, 14 Bautista Delguy, 13 Santiago Chocobares, 12 Jeronimo De La Fuente, 11 Matias Moroni, 10 Nicolas Sanchez, 9 Felipe Ezcurra, 8 Rodrigo Bruni, 7 Facundo Isa, 6 Pablo Matera, 5 Marco Kremer, 4 Guido Petti, 3 Francisco Gomez Kodela, 2 Julian Montoya (capt), 1 Nahuel Chaparro. Substitutes: 16 Facundo Bosch, 17 Carlos Muzzio, 18 Santiago Medrano, 19 Tomas Lavanini, 20 Matias Alemanno, 21 Gonzalo Bertranou, 22 Domingo Miotti, 23 Sebastian Cancelliere.
Even Argentina coach Mario Ledesma said it — the forward battle will hold the key for the Boks. And while players such as Pieter-Steph du Toit, Duane Vermeulen, RG Snyman and others are out with injury, there is a chance for others to put down a marker.
“There is a saying in Argentina that the forwards win the game and the backs decide by how much. The forward battle will be crucial, we are confident about our pack and I am excited to see the challenge on the field,” said Ledesma.
How the Boks meet that challenge will have big implications not only for today’s game, but further afield for the rest of the Rugby Championship, and the depth they need to defend their title.