(Reuters) - Argentina must repeat last year’s performance against South Africa with a home win in Salta on Saturday if they want better results than their five previous participations in The Rugby Championship.
Another victory at the Padre Ernesto Martearena Stadium, a daunting task against an improved Springboks side, would boost the Pumas in their quest for at least two wins this year to better a record of one in each of their last three tournaments.
The Pumas were made well aware of the size of the task last weekend in Port Elizabeth where South Africa scored four tries to two in a 37-15 victory that took South Africa’s 2017 tally to four victories in as many tests, a far cry from their troubled 2016 season.
Argentina had to gain more possession to enable them to attack more after an opening match in which they were on the back foot for much of the game, coach Daniel Hourcade said.
“You can’t spend all match defending against a team like South Africa, who are in great form and put you under a lot of pressure,” Hourcade said.
He said Argentina needed more of the ball, which they lost too easily last Saturday, and had to commit fewer unforced errors which the Springboks were quick to pounce on.
“We must urgently improve our scrum, which was our weakest point,” said Hourcade. “We can’t give away five penalties there (in the scrum)... not doing that, it’s a different story, you can build (attacks) better.”
Argentina, who had held their own against South Africa in previous seasons including a first-ever victory over the Springboks in Durban in 2015, beat them 26-24 in Salta a year ago.
Hourcade has made six changes to his team, four in the pack and his halfback pairing, bringing in 2007 World Cup veteran Juan Martinez Hernandez and former Brumbies scrumhalf Tomas Cubelli for fresh minds in the playmaking department.
South Africa coach Allister Coetzee has shown complete faith in the side that won last weekend by making one change, enforced by injury to scrumhalf Ross Cronje, with Francois Hougaard taking his place.
It is a first away test this year for South Africa, who beat France 3-0 in a three-match series in June, but Coetzee said his team would approach it in the same way with “patience, hunger and the desire to execute our game plan”.
Editing by Clare Fallon