Friday, October 30, 2015

Springboks and Pumas Battle For Bronze


by Ciarán Duffy

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A Chance To Go Home With A Win

Before we get to the titanic collision tomorrow, there’s one more game to get through.  The Bronze final offers up a chance for the losing semi-finalists to go home with a win. 

South Africa started off their World Cup by suffering the biggest shock in rugby history, before regrouping to comfortably win their remaining games and top the pool.  They had the composure to see off Wales with a late try from captain Fourie du Preez, having been behind a few time throughout the game.  In the semi-finals they looked as if they had countered the All Blacks but failed to create any try-scoring chances and lost by two points. 

Argentina also started their campaign off with a defeat, although they looked strong in a loss against the All Blacks.  The Pumas comfortably overcame potential stumbling blocks in Georgia and Tonga before running in 9 tries against Namibia.  In the quarterfinals, they came out of the gate quickly against Ireland and built a lead that was too much for the boys in green.  In the semi-finals, they were unable to continue their momentum and went out to the brick wall defence of the Wallabies. 

South Africa and Argentina were both second best in their semi-finals.  South Africa were content to let the All Blacks have the ball, getting to the breakdown quickly to prevent them getting it out wide.  But they were relying on penalties to get scores and in the second-half when New Zealand improved their discipline the Springboks had no plan B.  Argentina tried to run the ball out of their own half too many times and paid the price.  They needed to play for territory but instead played rugby in front of their line, the Wallabies got three first-half tries to punish this.  Both teams failed to adjust when they went behind and now they are in the third place playoff. 

Argentina claimed their first ever win over South Africa in August, beating them 37-25 in the Rugby Championship.  The following week South Africa would get the win, coming out on top 26-12 in their only warm-up match.  The sides have met once in a World Cup, the 2007 quarterfinal, with South Africa winning by a comfortable score line of 37-12 on their way to their World Cup triumph.  Both sides have won their only previous bronze final, South Africa beat New Zealand in 1999, Argentina beat France in 2007. 

South Africa have the edge on the team sheet.  Last week Juan Imhoff went off early with an injury, Juan Martin Hernandez and Agustin Creevy followed him later in the game.  Imhoff provided a serious threat out wide, his absence will limit their attacking options.  To compound onto the loss of Juan Martin Hernandez, Marcelo Bosch has also been ruled out for the clash, which means Argentina will be without their two starting centres.  Captain Creevy’s injury means they are without a key leader.  To further deplete the front row Marcos Ayerza, having been included in the team originally will no longer be able to take part. 

Coming up against a physical South Africa side, missing two key front row players will severely diminish Argentina’s strength in the scrum.  Juan Figallo is an able replacement, he is up against a less experienced Frans Matherbe.  Figallo will need to put serious pressure on the 24-year old.  With Imhoff out Santiago Cordero becomes key to the Pumas attack.  He caused the Wallabies problems last week with his quick feet.  Matias Moroni has had a strong tournament and will offer another option going forward.  But Argentina can’t be trying to run the ball out of their own half again.  The Springboks were effective at the breakdown last week and have the quality to punish Argentina this week.  Speaking off the breakdown, Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe will be, as he usually is, key. 

As for South Africa, they need to create a whole lot more than they did last week.  It feels like months since Habana levelled Lomu’s record and he will be starving to break it.  They need to quicken their pace, and the likes of Habana and JP Pietersen can help them do that.  If the Springboks allow Argentina to have the ball like they did New Zealand, they will once again be broken down. 

Victor Matfield captains South Africa on his final appearance, partnering Eben Etzebeth to give South Africa an advantage in the lineout.  This game could well come down to the accuracy of the kickers, Handre Pollard was on fine form last week, but Nicolas Sanchez, captaining the Pumas, has been on fine form all tournament, he will be crucial as well.  Ruan Pienaar is back in the fold, with Rudy Paige making the bench for the Springboks.  South Africa edge it on impact subs, Adriaan Strauss and Jannie du Plessis provide a physical ball carrying threat. 

This game will be won by which team wants it more, the disappointment of losing a semi-final is hard to bounce back from, so it will be whether or not one side sees this game as an opportunity to finish on a high, or as a nuisance. 

Could well be looking at extra-time, but South Africa to come away as winners for me, with Argentina, having had a day less to prepare, missing too many players through injury.  

Ciarán Duffy (@VoiceQuakeDuffy) is a Leinster supporter who would watch any game of rugby while undoubtedly taking it too seriously.  He enjoys over analysing and taking a pessimistic look at the bright side while talking about Irish, European, and World Rugby issues on and off the field. 

*****
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