PE game against Argentina ‘will be thriller’

Siya Kolisi, left, and Elton Jantjies during a Springbok training session at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium yesterday
Picture: Werner Hills

Springbok assistant coach Johann van Graan is predicting a thriller in Port Elizabeth against Argentina, saying most games in the Rugby Championship are decided by the narrow margin of 10 points.

Van Graan believes the sellout 46 000 crowd at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium can expect another titanic struggle between two highly charged teams.

“We have got a lot of respect for the Argentine test team,” Van Graan said.

“So we must take our chances and put a few points on the board.

“The past few tests we have had against them have been titanic struggles. They always have a good scrum and they are also a good mauling team.

“Possibly one of their biggest strengths is their breakdown work.

“They have fantastic ball stealers and carriers on both attack and defence.

“It will be a big challenge for us – one we are looking forward to.”

Van Graan said the decision to arrive in Port Elizabeth two weeks ahead of the test had already reaped rewards.

“We [have] had a good week here in Port Elizabeth and everybody got back into the same boat and into the Springbok way. “This week will be a process. “We will focus on all the small areas and hopefully put everything together on Saturday to put in a Springbok performance of note.

“The weather might also play its part. Over the past few years, when games starts at 5pm, the grass is a bit wet.

“We expect the high ball in play, and we also want to keep ball in hand and play a territory game. It is all about opportunities.”

Springbok assistant coach Johann van Graan
File picture: Sydney Seshibedi / Gallo Images

Van Graan said the team would narrow down their focus in the four days leading up to the test.

“One of the things I have learnt about the Rugby Championship is that once the games start it is very intense and you don’t have a lot of preparation time.

“So last week we took a wider view on the Championship and took in New Zealand and Australia along the way.

“This week it is all about Argentina. So we will be finalising a plan for them and be very specific in our preparation and, most importantly, focusing on ourselves.

“We are looking at improving after the French series, and I would like to say we want to go places in this Championship. The team will focus on [getting] there.”

Asked whether the loss of injured first-choice captain Warren Whiteley would affect the balance of the back row, Van Graan said: “I think Warren’s injury is a big blow to our team.

“Warren brought a lot to the side and as the old saying goes you don’t miss somebody until they are gone.

“[There was] what Warren did in the side channels and his work rate off the ball, [and] his leadership and lineout abilities.

“That is not something that you change in a day.

“That said, I have been impressed by Uzair Cassiem.

“I worked with him last year on his [lineouts] and he is player who can play forward and back.

“If you look at Super Rugby, he played Nos 6, 7 and 8 for the Cheetahs, so hopefully he can cover one of two of those areas.

“I am very confident in our loose forwards’ ability to execute the plan we put on the table,” Van Graan said.

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