The Rugby Championship returns to South African soil on Saturday, as the Springboks take on Argentina in Gqeberha.
Los Pumas are in the city formerly known as Port Elizabeth for the first of a double-header in the Eastern Cape, before the pair decamp to Australasia to complete a rejigged fixture list thanks to the ongoing effects of the global Covid-19 pandemic.
New Zealand’s All Blacks kick off the competition earlier in the day when they host arch-rivals Australia at Eden Park.
It’s an uphill task for the tourists, taking on a host nation with a bulging trophy cabinet.
Captain Siya Kolisi will lead his side out in his home city just a week after claiming a 2-1 victory in an acrimonious series against the British & Irish Lions.
It added to the Webb Ellis trophy in the Boks’ possession thanks to their 2019 World Cup final glory against England in Tokyo – remarkably their most recent competitive action before this international window.
And, if you can remember far back enough, they are also reigning champions of the full Rugby Championship tournament, discounting last year’s event that was forced to go ahead without them as the Coronavirus took hold.
The South Americans tuned up for their visit to the Windy City with three matches in Europe in July.
They first squeezed past Romania before sealing a draw and a win against a much-weakened Wales side at the Principality Stadium in Cardiff.
A brutal trio of Tests against the Lions in Cape Town has left mastermind coach Jacques Nienaber needing to make ten changes to the starting line up in the Eastern Cape.
Only skipper Kolisi, right-hand-man Eben Etzebeth, Lood de Jager, Jasper Wiese and Cobus Reinach remain from last weekend’s nerve-shredder in which veteran Morne Steyn repeated his trick of 12 years previously by coming up with the winning kick.
Steyn lurks on the bench again, while the other end of the spectrum sees Joseph Dweba make his South Africa debut at hooker.
Elton Jantjies earns a chance at fly-half in an all-changed backline, with Damian Willemse slotting in at full-back as Sbu Nkosi and Aphelele Fassi add some fresh zip on the wings.
The visitors’ preparation has been hampered by injury to scrum-half Tomas Cubelli, while Emiliano Boffelli and Facundo Gigena are both in transit limbo thanks to Covid-19 restrictions.
Julian Montoya captains the side from the front row, as they begin their uphill task against the champions of the world.
Rugby Championship: South Africa vs Argentina prediction and teams
Prediction methodology explained: The expected win percentage is based off publicly available odds. For example, if a team’s odds are 2.30, the expected chance of winning is 43%. If the odds are 1.62 the expected chance of winning is 62% and so on. These are accurate at the time of writing but are subject to change. Where there is no value listed, the odds were not available at the time of writing. Score margins use the methodology developed by Rugby Vision.
Springboks Starting XV: 15 Damian Willemse, 14 Sbu Nkosi, 13 Jesse Kriel, 12 Frans Steyn, 11 Aphelele Fassi, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Cobus Reinach, 8 Jasper Wiese, 7 Kwagga Smith, 6 Siya Kolisi (captain), 5 Lood de Jager, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Wilco Louw, 2 Joseph Dweba, 1 Ox Nché.
Replacements: 16 Malcolm Marx, 17 Trevor Nyakane, 18 Vincent Koch, 19 Marvin Orie, 20 Marco van Staden, 21 Dan du Preez, 22 Herschel Jantjies, 23 Morné Steyn.
Argentina Starting XV: 15 Santiago Carreras, 14 Bautista Delguy, 13 Santiago Chocobares, 12 Jerónimo De La Fuente, 11 Matías Moroni, 10 Nicolás Sánchez, 9 Felipe Ezcurra, 8 Rodrigo Bruni, 7 Facundo Isa, 6 Pablo Matera, 5 Marco Kremer, 4 Guido Petti, 3 Francisco Gomez Kodela,2 Julian Montoya (Captain), 1 Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro.
Replacements: 16 Facundo Bosch, 17 Carlos Muzzio, 18 Santiago Medrano, 19 Tomas Lavanini, 20 Matias Alemanno, 21 Gonzalo Bertranou, 22 Domingo Miotti, 23 Sebastian Cancelliere