by Daniel Lorenzo
South Africa hope to maintain the momentum from four victories and 25 tries this season when they face Argentina for the second consecutive weekend in Mendoza Saturday.
The Springboks made a dream start to the Rugby Championship last Saturday in Soweto, scoring nine tries in a 73-13 romp against Los Pumas.
It was a record winning margin for the southern hemisphere championship and cast South Africa in a new light of adventurous and exciting rugby rather than a predictable kick-and-chase outfit.
South Africa scored 23 tries in 12 Tests last year — this season they have already notched 25 against Italy, Scotland, Samoa and Argentina with JJ Engelbrecht and Bryan Habana claiming four each.
The try fest stems from a settled backline with full-back Willie le Roux, wings Bjorn Basson and Habana, centres Engelbrecht and Jean de Villiers, and star goal-kicking fly-half Morne Steyn beginning all four games.
Forwards have also got in on the scoring act with hooker Adriaan Strauss and flank Francois Louw bagging two apiece and four others also dotting down.
Satisfied that the team have improved since he took charge last year, coach Heyneke Meyer wants to see the recent home form transferred to western Argentina.
His ambition with an unchanged starting line-up is another bonus-point victory against opponents who have made five alterations, three of them injury induced.
“We are developing a killer instinct as a team and the challenge now is to have the same attitude away from home,” Meyer told reporters.
“Last weekend has to be forgotten and we must show ruthlessness against a wounded opponent. We were clinical in Soweto and we must be equally clinical in Mendoza.
“Those tries did not come from throwing the ball around, the team played with structure and purpose and wore down the Pumas. That is what we must build on.”
Meyer hardly needs to remind his men in green and gold how close they came to suffering a first defeat in Argentina at the Estadio Malvinas Argentinas last season.
A try by currently injured centre Francois Steyn after he charged down a clearance kick gave the Springboks a 16-16 draw they did not deserve.
Among the Argentine stars last August in the city at the foothills of the Andes were prop Rodrigo Roncero and No.8 and captain Juan Martin Hernandez Lobbe.
They instilled a passion to the Pumas pack that was sadly lacking last weekend with the South Americans a beaten team long before the final whistle.
It did not help a team competing in the Championship for only the second season that they lost lock Patricio Albacete and full-back Juan Martin Hernandez to early injuries.
Nor were chances of a maiden win boosted by the yellow carding of hooker Eusebio Guinazu for a deliberate knock-on and No.8 Leonardo Senatore for a high, dangerous tackle.
England-based Guinazu and Senatore are in the starting line-up again, but veteran workhorse Albacete and enterprising Hernandez have not recovered.
Lobbe, who helped French side Toulon win the Heineken Cup last season, remains sidelined and his continued absence is a massive blow.
“We had a lot of things to do this week, starting with the mentality of the players,” admitted Argentina coach and former star forward Santiago Phelan.
“The team realises that the second season is going to be much tougher than the first and we are up against the three best rugby teams in the world.
“We need to grow up, we need to learn about intensity, we need to keep playing the top teams in order to learn and improve,” he stressed.
Dominant in the set pieces and loose exchanges a week ago, South Africa seem set to triumph in a country where their biggest winning margin was 32 points nine years ago.
But if Argentina can rekindle the passion of last season and tackle better — they missed one in three in Soweto — another humiliating defeat should be avoided. – AFP