Argentina hope a change of venue changes result

Argentina are hoping that a change of venue will bring a change in results when they face South Africa in a second round Rugby Championship match on Saturday.

Los Pumas have lost all seven home Tests against the Springboks since they first met 19 years ago, and all were played in the capital Buenos Aires.

But for the first home game in a southern hemisphere championship that includes world champions New Zealand and Australia, Argentina have opted for western city Mendoza at the foothills of the snow-capped Andes mountains range.

The national team have beaten Italy and neighbours Chile at the 45,000-seat multi-sport Estadio Mundialista Malvinas Argentinas in this hub of the biggest Latin American wine-producing region.

But every Argentine player, coach, official and supporter craves a victory over South Africa, the only major rugby nation they have lost every match against. Even the mighty All Blacks were held 21-21 in a 1985 Test.

Including the 27-6 loss in Cape Town last Saturday, the Pumas have suffered 14 consecutive defeats against South Africa with 40-21 the average score when the men in blue and white host the men in green and gold.

“My players are thrilled to be part of the first Rugby Championship match to be played in Argentina. It is a big deal for us,” coach and former Pumas flank Santiago Phelan told reporters.

“We are disappointed by the way things went in the first Test, but we did not play that poorly and were competitive. We hung in there, but the team need to play better this weekend.

“There was good quality ball for us from the scrums and lineouts and we tried to play it. Despite conceding three tries, our defensive screen was very good at time.”

More than 1,000 spectators attended one Springbok training session this week and 38-year-old Phelan shares the admiration of his countrymen for two-time world champions South Africa.

“The Springboks are powerful, play head-on rugby and aim to impose a physical presence. They are a complete team — very powerful forwards and very skilful backs,” said the coach.

Phelan originally made on change to the team beaten in Cape Town with full-back Lucas Gonzalez Amorosino replaced by Martin Rodriguez, but a training ground injury to fly-half Juan Martin Hernandez lets Nicolas Sanchez in.

The loss of regular casualty Hernandez — his Test start at Newlands was the first since 2009 — means both countries will lack a talismanic figure for the showdown at a stadium within the 1,000-acre General San Martin park.

South Africa lost livewire Bismarck du Plessis, widely regarded as the best hooker in the world, early on with a ligaments injury that could sideline him for eight months.

Adriaan Strauss came on and retains his place while a back row reshuffle sees outstanding ball carrier Willem Alberts move from flank to No 8, Jacques Potgieter take his place, and slightly built Keegan Daniel drop to the bench.

“Keegan is a great player, but I am expecting a physical match and thought it would be better to start with Jacques. We need to stop the Pumas’ mauls and the change gives us extra weight,” explained Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer.

“If we were playing Australia, Keegan would have started. It was a horses-for-courses decision. When the game opens up during the second half, Keegan will be a better impact player than Jacques.

“We are going to face a passionate Pumas side who have been very difficult to beat at home in recent years. I was not that happy with our performance last weekend and we are in for a massive challenge here.”

It will be the first away Test for Meyer, who took charge of the Springboks this year when the contract of Peter de Villiers expired, and follows two wins and a draw against England and a win over Argentina.

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