Ross Roche

By Ross Roche

Senior sports writer

Springboks seek improved aerial performance in Pumas Test

Duane Vermeulen will once again be captaining the side from the back of the scrum, after he did against the Wallabies.

The Springboks will be aiming for a much improved contestable kicking game when they take on Argentina in their Rugby Championship clash at Ellis Park on Saturday.

Coach Jacques Nienaber has named a relatively small back three for the match with Cheslin Kolbe and Kurt-Lee Arendse on the wings and Willie le Roux at fullback, but believes that they will put in a better showing than the one that was produced against the All Blacks just over a week ago.

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“One of the big things we spoke about in our review was our kicking game against New Zealand and how we were found a little bit short. That is out of character for us in terms of the contestable kicking game that New Zealand launched on us,” explained Nienaber.

“Funnily enough that is one of the strengths of Argentina. They have a very good contestable kicking game. So it’s almost a double edged sword. It’s something we want to fix from the previous match. But it’s also something that we have to fix playing against Argentina, as it’s one of their strengths.”

Fresh halfbacks

The Boks have also named a fresh halfback pairing with flyhalf Manie Libbok partnering up with Grant Williams, who earns his first start after three appearances off the bench so far.

 Two of those cameos came in the past two games against the All Blacks and Wallabies, with Williams impressing with snappy service and good game awareness and he now has the chance to show what he can do from the start.

“We are fortunate that we have five quality scrumhalves. With Grant it’s not only the two performances that he has produced off the bench this season that has earned him this start,” said Niebaber.

“But it’s also last year when he didn’t get an opportunity and was fourth or fifth choice, with how he trained and how he performed for his franchise. It’s what he’s done since he’s been in the mix with us and he deserves this opportunity.”

Vermeulen to lead

Duane Vermeulen will once again be captaining the side from the back of the scrum, after he did against the Wallabies, as he replaces Jasper Wiese who started against the All Blacks.

Marco van Staden gets another start after a strong showing against the Wallabies and Kwagga Smith will be the loose forward cover on the bench.

Before the international season started it was questioned whether Vermeulen still had what it took to go to another World Cup ahead of an exciting youngster like Evan Roos, but that question seems to have been answered emphatically with his recent performances.

“I have been working with Duane since 2006 and at that stage Canan (Moodie) was about four years old,” said Nienaber with a laugh.

“We have come a long way and he has been great for us over the past few weeks. So I am very happy for him. And, Kwagga was one of the guys who had not played much rugby before last Saturday, because he left Japan with an injury. So we are trying to get him some good game time.

“Marco played deeper into the season but we wanted to give him another start after his performance against Australia.”