The Sun (Malaysia)
Pumas and Springboks look to end on a high
THE Rugby World Cup third-place playoff is often regarded by teams as a match too far but South Africa and Argentina have good reason to try to end the year on a winning note.
The Pumas meet the Springboks at the Olympic Stadium in east London today looking to beat them for the second time in less than three months and first at a World Cup after their 37-13 defeat in the 2007 semifinal.
Under-pressure South Africa coach Heyneke Meyer knows he can ill-afford another defeat in a year when he has already lost five test matches including their World Cup opener to Japan.
Demoralised by the semifinal loss to the All Blacks, he has selected his strongest possible side with scrumhalf Fourie du Preez unavailable through injury and replaced by Ruan Pienaar.
Lock Victor Matfield will play his 127th and last game for the Springboks as captain with impressive youngster Lood de Jager dropping to the bench.
“This is a critical match for us and we owe it to ourselves and our supporters to end the season on a high note,” Meyer said yesterday.
Argentina have lost four leading players to injury from the bruising 29-15 semifinal defeat by Australia, with captain Agustin Creevy, centre Juan Martin Hernandez, wing Juan Imhoff and fullback Joaquin Tuculet all ruled out.
Coach Daniel Hourcade has made nine changes to a team in which some veterans of the 2007 World Cup could be making their last Pumas appearance.
“We know some are likely never to play again, not just at a World Cup but also for the Pumas,” he said. “Each one of them will be emotionally charged up and we hope that will be a plus.”
Hourcade said Argentina knew they were going to face a stiff physical challenge.
“We must try to make them feel uncomfortable in close contact, tackle low, try to get quick ball out at the breakdown.
“This is as important as any other match and to reach the podium is a dream so we’re going out to try and get there.” – Reuters