x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Rugby Championship: Injury issues for hosts Argentina

South Africa comes to Argentina nursing some wounds from the last time the two teams met in the Rugby Championship, but the hosts are smarting a bit, too.

Brian Habana, centre, and his South Africa teammates face Argentina a bit banged up, but the Pumas are also nursing injuries.
Brian Habana, centre, and his South Africa teammates face Argentina a bit banged up, but the Pumas are also nursing injuries.

Argentina will make their eagerly awaited home debut in the southern hemisphere's Rugby Championship on Sunday.

But they must tackle South Africa in Mendoza without star fly-half Juan Martin Hernandez, who was injured during a training session earlier this week and has been replaced by Nicolas Sanchez.

A capacity 50,000 crowd is expected for arguably the biggest day in Argentina's rugby history.

But the Pumas have their work cut out, given they lost to the Springboks in Cape Town last weekend and have never beaten South Africa in 14 attempts.

The visitors have also suffered an injury blow, with hooker Bismarck du Plessis sidelined, yet South Africa will still start as firm favourites.

And their cause was helped significantly when wing Bryan Habana passed a fitness test after suffering an ankle injury during the victory at Newlands.

"Having Bryan is obviously a big boost as we've lost a number of players with lots of experience after J P Pietersen, Pierre Spies and Bismarck du Plessis already had to withdraw from our squad," Springboks coach Heyneke Meyer said.

Adrian Strauss replaces du Plessis with a rejigged back-row seeing Jacques Potgieter starting at blindside flanker and Willem Alberts moving to No 8. Keegan Daniel drops down to the bench.

"It was a difficult decision between Jacques and Keegan, but we have gone with horses for courses this time," Meyers said.

"We are expecting it will be very physical early in the game and it might open up later, which perfectly suits the strong-points of both Jacques and Keegan.

"The Pumas also mauled quite well in Cape Town and we were not happy with the defence of their mauls, so with the extra weight Jacques brings we will have to ensure we stop their drives.

"Argentina played a very physical game in Cape Town - as we expected - and they will step it up this weekend in front of their home fans. It will be a very tough Test, and we need to be 100 per cent switched on."

Australia's forwards have been asked to step up and face the All Blacks to give their backs some "front foot" ball when they meet in their clash at Eden Park today.

Wallabies forwards came off second best last week when the world champions upset scrum-half Will Genia's rhythm and ability to deliver clean ball to his backline and stopped them from playing their game as they recorded a 27-19 win in Sydney. "Last week, the All Blacks denied us momentum, didn't allow us to bring more threats into the game," Wallabies coach Robbie Deans said.

"The All Blacks made our life difficult ... it's difficult to play off static ball and we have to find a way to create momentum.

"We have to be a bit smarter. We need to create some doubt in order for us to play ourselves."

Deans has brought mercurial fly-half Quade Cooper, who suffered a serious knee injury on the same ground during the third-place play-off at last year's World Cup, back into the side.

Genia, who will captain the Wallabies after David Pocock was ruled out, was looking forward to the influence his Queensland Reds teammate would bring to the side.

"He is in a good space. He has worked hard to get over his knee injury. He is fit, fast and strong and ready to go," Genia said.

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