South Africa take on Argentina in the Bronze Medal match in the penultimate Rugby World Cup clash from London’s Olympic Stadium on Friday night. But in truth, nobody really wants to be here.
New Zealand head coach Steve Hansen refused to even acknowledge the fixture as he prepared the All Blacks for their semi-final showdown with the Springboks and the game has quite understandably taken on the tag as, ‘the match no team wants to play in’.
Both South Africa and Argentina were beaten in their tournament ribbon-cutters but it’s the Rainbow Nation’s embarrassing reverse to Japan that’ll linger long in the memory. The Springboks bounced back to comfortable top Pool B but Heyneke Meyer’s men never did find their very best rugby.
South Africa struggled to see off a dogged and resolute Wales side missing a catalogue of key players through injury during the quarter-finals. In a game where the lead changed hands several times, Fourie de Preez’s dramatic late try saw the Springboks over the line despite a fairly lacklustre showing.
The Boks were then squeezed out at the semi-final stage by old rivals New Zealand with plenty of their local media branding the side ‘chokers’. The Rainbow Nation surrendered a lead in the Twickenham drizzle when the All Blacks were down to 14-men, throwing away a half-time advantage and being outscored 2-0 on the try count.
Meyer’s made just two changes to his starting XV for Friday with Ruan Pienaar replacing the injured de Preez at scrum half and Victor Matfield taking the captain’s armband and replacing Lood de Jager at lock in his final showing before retirement.
The Boks have opted for continuity and that can only be seen as a positive with supporters and officials back home still demanding a victory despite the circumstances.
Argentina are available to support at 5/2, a similar price as they were before their 29-15 defeat to Australia in the final four. Los Pumas had unsurprisingly finished second behind the All Blacks in Pool C but won many admirers for their impressive attacking flair and intent throughout the competition.
That loss to the Wallabies was the first outing in which Daniel Hourcade’s troops had failed to cross the whitewash and in truth, the South Americans just never recovered from their error-ridden start on Sunday.
Argentina’s scintillating 43-20 destruction of Ireland in Cardiff was the major highlight of Los Pumas’ campaign and the young, confident squad have shown bags of promise.
The 2015 vintage are looking to emulate their best ever performance in RWC history. Back in 2007 Argentina beat France in the Bronze Medal match but Hourcade’s charges have been hit by injuries in the past week.
Los Pumas skipper Agustin Creevy is out so Nicolas Sanchez takes the armband. Flying wing Juan Imhoff, playmaking centre Juan Martin Hernandez and fullback Joaquin Tuculet are other absentees and the line up includes all of nine changes in total.
Los Pumas’ hand has been forced into rotation to some degree and although the South Americans pocketed a first ever victory over the Springboks in August during a Rugby Championship match in Durban, the XV that will take to the field on Friday night will be vastly different and arguably still feeling the effects of just five days rest.
South Africa have tended to dominate the head-to-head and have picked close to a full-strength side as they look to finish on a high. They’re certainly in better shape against the emotionally-drained and weary Pumas but a 12-point handicap looks a little steep for the Boks to beat.
With little riding on this encounter other than bragging rights we can expect a more open game and that could play into the hands of Argentina.
They’re unlikely to have enough in the tank to clinch a closing victory but they can at least keep the scoreline respectable and so backing a South Africa win by 1-12 points at 29/20 looks the best value option on the card.
South Africa v Argentina – South Africa to win by 1-12 points Add to betslip
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