Argentina’s pack will be nursing some sore bodies and a few bruised egos this week after their South African counterparts smashed them in their Rugby Championship opener on Saturday night.
The Springboks dominated Los Pumas at scrum time and in the collisions to secure a 37-15 win at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in Port Elizabeth. Tighthead Coenie Oosthuizen was one of the main men in South Africa’s front row doing the damage, as he made proper use of first start in the green and gold jersey since 2014.
Oostuizen made his debut for the Springboks against England in 2012 as a marauding, ball-carrying loosehead. But a neck injury and a long period out of the game forced to Sharks prop to make the switch to tighthead side of the scrum.
It wasn’t the smoothest of transitions, as Oosthuizen struggled to get to grips with the intricacies and technique required to be a force on that side of the scrum. And that’s probably why there were doubts surrounding his selection in the No 3 jersey for the Argentina game.
Coming off the bench, Oosthuizen was in awesome form earlier this year against the French, especially in the tight-loose. He carried well and even scored a try in the second Test Durban by running a wonderful line off the scrumhalf. But could he be a solid starter? Especially when his primary job as a tighthead is to get a good right shoulder in the scrum?
Oosthuizen, though, didn’t disappoint, laying down a marker in the very first scrum of the game by winning a penalty. The rest, as they say in the classics, is history.
The prop, however, didn’t want to take all the credit for the Boks’ top scrum performance. He mentioned his faith as the bedrock of his new lease on life at tighthead, but praised the whole Bok pack for a great night out in the ‘Bay’.
“It was a team effort, I think the whole pack of forwards were quite happy about the work we put into scrumming,” Oosthuizen said.
“Two weeks’ prep is difficult for the tight unit to evolve quickly. But from a scrumming perspective, we achieved what we wanted, but there is so much more we can actually do right to improve our scrumming.
“But, for the first Test for the Rugby Championship, I think we can be happy about that.”
However, Oosthuizen expects Los Pumas to be a different beast in Argentina this weekend.
Last year the Boks lost to Argentina in Salta, after the home side pushed them around on the narrow pitch of the Estadio Padre Ernesto Martearena. But this year, there has been a noticeable increase in South African team’s physicality.
The Boks stepped up in a big way in their 3-0 series win against France, while their performance against Los Pumas in the scrum and at the breakdown will give them a lot of confidence heading into tougher challenges later in the competition.
“It’s going to be a step up from what we faced. We might have matched them physically, but when you come to Salta in front of their home crowd … They are a very emotional side,” Oosthuizen said.
“We are going to have to step it up a notch. There were little mistakes we made, especially on attack … small details. If we can do that, the result will take care of itself.
“Going into next weekend our preparation needs to be good, our mental prep as well. We mustn’t look back at our success, but continue to evolve as a team.”