Sat, Dec 04, 2004 - Page 20 News List

Springboks about to face Pumas as season ends

AP , BUENOS AIRES, ARGENTINA

Argentina and South Africa clash today in the last major rugby international of the year, with the home team under-strength against a tired rival.

The Pumas are without nine starters who didn't concede a try in beating France and losing to Ireland in the last minute in the past two weeks. They were among 11 Argentines made unavailable by their European clubs for this weekend's test.

That forced Argentina coach Marcelo Loffreda to choose a mainly home-based side to try and beat the Springboks for the first time.

"Be careful, we are not going to be sparring partners against South Africa, and we will attack them," he said.

The Springboks, whose international team of the year award last weekend was blemished by touring losses this month to England and Ireland, are at almost full strength, though tired after four successive tests in Europe. Coach Jake White made only two changes from the run-on side which thumped Scotland 45-10 last weekend; Gaffie du Toit starts for Percy Montgomery, who returned to his Welsh club, and Jacques Cronje replaces injured No. 8 Joe van Niekerk, who is on the bench. White's limited moves to the lineup underlined his and the team's desire to finish the year on a high.

"It's important to end the year with a victory," he said. "We had a good season with wins over New Zealand and Australia and victory over the Pumas would put the icing on the cake."

South Africa went to Europe this month hoping to achieve a rare Grand Slam in the United Kingdom, but after edging Wales 38-36, the tour unraveled in losses to Ireland 17-12 and England 32-16, before last weekend's victory at Edinburgh.

Argentina's northern tour was more successful. The Pumas trounced Six Nations champion France 24-14 for the fourth straight time, and ended France's unbeaten record this year. Then, while a man down in Dublin, they were only a minute away from beating Ireland at Lansdowne Road for the first time, but lost 21-19.

Lineups

* Argentina: Juan Martin Hernandez, Pablo Gomez Cora, Manuel Contepomi, Gonzalo Tiesi, Lucas Borges, Juan de la Cruz Fernandez Miranda, Agustin Pichot (captain); Leopoldo De Chazal, Federico Mendez, Eusebio Guinazu, Santiago Artese, Pablo Bouza, Martin Durand, Lucas Ostiglia, Augusto Petrilli. Replacements: Marcos Ayerza, Alberto Vernet Basualdo, Manuel Carizza, Martin Schusterman, Nicolas Fernandez Miranda, Miguel Avramovic, Francisco Bosch

* South Africa: Gaffie du Toit, Jaque Fourie, Marius Joubert, Wayne Julies, Bryan Habana, Jaco van der Westhuyzen, Fourie du Preez; Gurthro Steenkamp, John Smit (captain), CJ van der Linde, Bakkies Botha, Victor Matfield, Solly Tyibilika, Danie Rossouw, Jacques Cronje. Replacements: Danie Coetzee, Os du Randt, Gerrie Britz, Joe van Niekerk, Michael Claassens, De Wet Barry, Brent Russell


Loffreda was still not over his irritation about the loss of key players for Saturday. He reorganized his team with several inexperienced players from the A team but warned his squad will still be strong despite the changes.

"Bringing in new players happens to all teams," said hooker Federico Mendez. "This is an opportunity for the new guys and they must take it.''

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