The Springboks head into the second match of their Rugby Championship campaign with form and confidence. Allister Coetzee’s men scored four tries in Saturday’s 37-15 victory against Argentina in Port Elizabeth. The set-piece performance was flawless while the gainline showing was exemplary. They have every reason to believe they can beat the Pumas in Salta, Argentina this Saturday and record their first away victory since October 2015.
In 2016 the Boks lost four matches in the Rugby Championship. They finished the season with eight losses in 12 tests. By the end of the year, critics at home and abroad agreed that the defence was a shambles and that the once-mighty Boks no longer possessed an intimidating physical aura.
Much has changed over the past nine months or so. The introduction of defence guru Brendan Venter, a former Bok centre and decorated coach, has made all the difference. The Boks thrashed France 3-0 in the series played in June. Much was made of the Boks’ progress on attack. More significantly, the defence kept France to 15 points or less in each of the three games.
The Boks relied heavily on their offensive defence in the recent defeat of Argentina. Yes, they scored four tries, but again more should be read into the fact that they conceded only 15 points. A closer look at the stats shows the Boks missed just six tackles over the course of the game.
Equally encouraging was the performance by the forwards. The Boks bossed the scrums and lineouts. Argentina are not the force they once were at the set pieces, yet SA should take heart from a dominant performance in these areas. It bodes well for the follow-up clash in Salta, and for the more challenging clashes against Australia and New Zealand in the weeks to come.
The All Blacks scored eight tries against four in their 54-34 hammering of the Wallabies in Sydney. Steve Hansen’s side will be favourites to beat Australia in Dunedin on Saturday, given that the All Blacks haven’t lost a test to the Wallabies in New Zealand since 2001. They will be favourites to consolidate their position at the top of the Rugby Championship log and to strengthen their claim for another title.
At this stage, the Boks look to be the only side capable of challenging the All Blacks. Their success in this year’s tournament will, however, hinge on their performances in Argentina, Australia, and New Zealand over the next four weeks.
Coetzee’s side lost all three tour matches in the 2016 edition of the Rugby Championship. They became the first SA side to lose a test in Argentina.
The Boks should be desperate to prove a point when they take the field in Salta on Saturday. A win will keep them in the hunt for an elusive Rugby Championship title. An improved performance will boost the belief that a victory in at least one of the coming tests on Australasian soil is possible.