South Africa and Argentina begin their game review

Any enigma about the physical preparation and the evolution of the Springboks’ game will be revealed when they face the British and Irish Lions.

Given the Springboks have not participated in any competitions since the end of 2019, and with most of their key players playing abroad, it is difficult to analyze the medium-term prospects that would deposit them at the gates of the Rugby Championship 2021.

In principle, one of the keys to dismantling the South African defensive game lies in avoiding or controlling the rapid pressure they exert through no’s. 6-8 and no. 9: fast and direct through the shortest channel until crashing into the opponent’s attack.

Physicality on the occasion of contact is the central axis of the South African strategy, with almost 98 per cent effectiveness in ruck and 85 per cent in positive tackles.

At the last Rugby World Cup in 2019, the Springboks left their qualifying group behind by playing good rugby but mostly focused on the potential to score points. But as they progressed towards the final stages of the tournament, their try power diminished until they faced England with an accumulated net difference of +13 tries in their favour.

So far a quick overview of the current world champion. But one thing will be certain: nothing that happens in the series with the Lions will determine the aspirations to impose their leadership and physical might in the rugby ecosystem of the southern hemisphere.

A similar situation occurs with Argentina, who dispersed their men in European professional rugby and, to a lesser extent, Australia. After a disappointing performance at the World Cup, the Pumas managed to shore up their game at the Tri-Nations in 2020, based on defensive strength (86.2 per cent on positive tackles) and relative control of the breakdown.

Finally their second position in the championship was ensured by the effectiveness of kicking the sticks but also showing notable advances in scrummaging (after hitting rock bottom in 2017) and lineout, where they presented, among others, the winning card of Guido Petti as the best jumper of Super Rugby in the last year of Jaguares.

Regarding the scrummaging technique called ´La Bajadita´, promoted by Argentina at the Tri-Nations, you can consult its current implications in contemporary rugby in this article by Nick Bishop.

What should we expect from Los Pumas in the next matches? Matches against Wales in July will give us approximate form of the Argentine team. But we can point out something that differentiates the Argentine team for some years and that could be healthy.

First, we see a strong correlation between granted turnovers and the dramatic change in status, where the ‘disorganised Latino’ temperament shows its achievements by incredibly disorganising the world’s tightest defences.

The other point that perhaps the Argentine team should enhance, in addition to other variations to the monolithic defence already presented, is obtaining more fluid access routes to the opponent’s territory to transform possession and territory into tries.

The kicking game could be an avenue. The conservative conduction of the phase game could be another. In the 2020 Tri-Nations, the opponent’s 22-metre penetrating effectiveness was 9.6 per cent compared to 10.5 per cent for Australia and 37.2 per cent for New Zealand.

So far, that’s my vision of things. Once the luminaire originating from the recent Super Rugby Trans-Tasman is extinguished, we will see what Australia and New Zealand haver in store for us.

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