By Ramiro Scandolo
BUENOSAIRES (Reuters) – Argentina have warned South Africa not to expect an easy walk to the Rugby Championship title in their decisive final match in Salta on Saturday.
South Africa top the table heading in to their final game but home captain Pablo Matera told the Springboks to expect a battle.
“South Africa is a very physical team but so are we,” Matera told reporters on Thursday. “The games that are physical battles are always the ones we like the most.
“They have been saying all week that they are coming here to be champions and we are going to do everything we can to stop them.”
South Africa lead the table by a point from New Zealand, the difference coming in the bonus point they picked up in a 35-17 triumph over Australia. South Africa and New Zealand drew their game.
A win and a bonus point against the Argentines, who are bottom of the table after losing to both New Zealand and Australia, would guarantee the Springboks their first southern hemisphere title since 2009.
It would also ensure the All Blacks walk away empty-handed for the first time since the Pumas joined what used to be the Tri-Nations tournament in 2012.
South Africa will have Bongi Mbonambi, Trevor Nyakane and Tendai Mtawarira, the most experienced prop in Springbok history, lined up in a reshuffled front row.
Argentina have recalled former captain Agustin Creevy at hooker and revamped their second row.
The Pumas will be looking to record a morale-boosting win ahead of the World Cup starting in Japan next month.
Argentina are in one of the toughest World Cup pools, alongside England, France, the United States and Tonga.
“The final objective is the World Cup, the one that’s coming up is enormous,” Matera said.
“We’re not talking about going game by game, it’s day by day and we’re almost there. We have to take advantage and grow as a team, we have the biggest dream of all, but we don’t want to get ahead of ourselves. We want to arrive as the strongest team we possibly can be.”
(Writing by Andrew Downie, editing by Ed Osmond)