Experienced scrumhalf Francois Hougaard will make his 44th Test appearance for the Springboks when South Africa face Argentina in the high altitude of Salta on Saturday evening (SA time).
Hougaard comes into the Springbok starting fifteen in place of the injured Ross Cronje, who sustained an ankle injury in the Springboks’ 37-15 triumph over the Pumas last weekend in Port Elizabeth.
Springbok coach, Allister Coetzee, said that while the loss of Cronje is a big blow to the team, the Boks are in the fortunate position to call on the services of the very experienced Hougaard.
With Hougaard elevated to the starting team, Rudy Paige moves back into the match day squad as the replacement scrumhalf.
“Francois has played a lot of Test match rugby, his work ethic is second to none and he has been working hard up to now since joining the squad,” said Coetzee.
“Rudy made a good impact in the third Test against France and I expect the same from him this weekend.”
According to the Springbok coach, the entire match 23 played well in Port Elizabeth, making it easy to announce just the one forced change in a week that the team has a short turnaround due to the travel to South America. The consistent team selection also allows the Springboks to continue with their processes and keep building on their continuity.Coetzee also pointed to the healthy competition for places in the team: “The players outside of the match 23 squad are all knocking on the door and that is a great position to be in.”
Coetzee said the Springboks have to deliver an even better performance in Salta, where a fierce Puma challenge is expected.
“This is going to be a different challenge but I have no doubt the players will benefit and grow from every tough experience,” said the Springbok coach.
“Our approach and preparation will be just the same as when we prepared for all our home Tests, and to control whatever we can control.
“We must again show patience, hunger and the desire to execute our game plan.”
The two teams have met twice in Salta before – in 2014, Jean de Villiers’ Springboks clinched a narrow 33-31 win over the Pumas at the high altitude venue, and in 2016 the Pumas recorded a famous 26-24 win over the South Africans.
The Springbok side to face Argentina in Salta:
15. Andries Coetzee (Emirates Lions), 4 caps, 0 points
14. Raymond Rhule (Toyota Cheetahs), 4 caps, 5 points (1 try)
13. Jesse Kriel (Vodacom Bulls), 20 caps, 25 points (5 tries)
12. Jan Serfontein (Vodacom Bulls), 30 caps, 20 points (4 tries)
11. Courtnall Skosan (Emirates Lions), 4 caps, points (1 try)
10. Elton Jantjies (Emirates Lions), 15 caps, 147 points (1 try, 26 conv, 30 pen)
9. Francois Hougaard (Worcester Warriors, England) 43 caps, 25 points (5 tries)
8. Uzair Cassiem (Toyota Cheetahs) 2 caps, 5 points (1 try)
7. Jaco Kriel (Emirates Lions), 9 caps, 0 points
6. Siya Kolisi (DHL Stormers), 20 caps, 5 points (1 try)
5. Franco Mostert (Emirates Lions), 11 caps, 0 points
4. Eben Etzebeth (captain, DHL Stormers), 58 caps, 15 points (3 tries)
3. Coenie Oosthuizen (Cell C Sharks), 27 caps, 20 points (4 tries)
2. Malcolm Marx (Emirates Lions), 6 caps, 5 points (1 try)
1. Tendai Mtawarira (Cell C Sharks), 91 caps, 10 points (2 tries)
16. Bongi Mbonambi (DHL Stormers), 9 caps, 0 points
17. Steven Kitshoff (DHL Stormers), 14 caps, 0 points
18. Trevor Nyakane (Vodacom Bulls), 29 caps, 5 points (1 try)
19. Pieter-Steph du Toit (DHL Stormers), 24 caps, 15 points (3 tries)
20. Jean-Luc du Preez (Cell C Sharks), 5 caps, 0 points
21. Rudy Paige (Vodacom Bulls) 8 caps, 5 points (1 try)
22. Curwin Bosch (Cell C Sharks), 1 cap, 0 points
23. Damian de Allende (DHL Stormers), 23 caps, 15 points (3 tries)
Facts and Stats:
· Salta is situated in the northwest part of Argentina at the foothills of the Andes mountains, 1,152m above sea level.
· The Springboks have played two Test matches at this stadium before: in 2014, Jean de Villiers’ team recorded a narrow two-point victory over Argentina (33-31) and in 2016 the Springboks, captained by Adriaan Strauss, lost for the first time since in Argentina – also by a two-point margin (24-26).
· To date, the Boks have played 12 times against the Pumas in Argentina. The Springbok record for the 12 matches: P 12; W 10; L 1; D 1. PF: 402; PA: 250; TF: 46; TA: 23; Average score: 34-21. Win%: 83%.
· South Africa’s overall record against Argentina: P: 25; W: 22; L: 2; D: 1; PF: 894; PA: 487; TF: 104; TA: 44; Average score: 36-19. Win%: 88%.
Total number of caps:
· The total Test caps for the Springbok starting line-up is 344. There are 120 caps in the backline with 224 caps amongst the forwards. On the bench there are a further 113 caps.
· The average caps per player in the backline are 17, the forwards 28 while the players on the bench average 14. The average age of the starting 15 is 26.
Records and milestones:
· Tendai Mtawarira will extend his record as the most-capped Springbok prop, with 92 caps in this position. He is the third most experienced Springbok forward, with only Victor Matfield and John Smit having played in more Tests for South Africa.
· “Beast” will also play in his 41st Castle Lager Rugby Championship Test – he is only the fourth Springbok behind Bryan Habana (53), Jean de Villiers (50) and Victor Matfield (48) to play in 40 or more such matches.
· Mtawarira will also extend his Springbok record to 31 consecutive Test matches in the Tri-Nations / Castle Lager Rugby Championship.
· Should the Springboks score 35 or more points in this Test, they will equal the SA record for most consecutive Tests with a score of 35 or more. They won their previous four Tests with scores of 37-14; 37-15; 35-12 (all against France) and 37-15 against Argentina in Port Elizabeth.
· The only time other South Africa achieved the feat was on 22 November, 1997 against France in Paris under the leadership of Gary Teichmann (52-10), following three previous winning scores of 35 or more (61-22 vs Australia; 62-31 vs Italy and 36-32 vs France) as well as a defeat of 55-35 to New Zealand.
· The seating capacity of the Estadio Padre Ernesto Martearena is 20 408.
· South Africa have played two Test matches against Argentina at this venue, with each team winning once.
· The average score is 29-29, with both teams having scored five tries each in the two matches.