Argentina v Scotland preview: Pumas to finish the job and claim series win on home soil

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 Credit: PA Images
Credit: PA Images

Scotland will be seeking revenge as they look to level the series against Argentina, thus making next week a winner-take-all contest in Santiago del Estero.

After Los Pumas picked up a 26-18 victory over the Scots in new head coach Michael Cheika’s first outing in the top job, it’s now win-or-bust for Scotland.

Bouncing back will be difficult this weekend in Salta, however, as they face not just a buoyant opponent but also, once again, the passionate Argentina fans.

Hamish Watson’s return to the side and the promotion of Rory Darge from bench duty to start should help their cause and in contrast the Pumas are without the talismanic Pablo Matera and Nicolas Sanchez on Saturday, as Rodrigo Bruni and Santiago Carreras come in as the hosts look to put the seal on a series win.

It’s fascinatingly poised ahead of the Estadio Padre Ernesto Martearena clash, with Argentina slight favourites to come out on top. However, with the added pressure of series success at home on the line, one cannot write off a determined Scotland outfit, who must start better than last weekend if they are to make it 1-1.

What happened in the first Test

It was a 26-18 victory for the Pumas last week as tries from centre Jerónimo de la Fuente and replacement Carreras in the first half set them on their way to the win. Sanchez had opened the scoring with a difficult penalty on four minutes before those two tries came. Blair Kinghorn slotted two penalties in that half in reply. After the break the 18-6 lead was wiped out inside 15 minutes as tries from Mark Bennett and Rory Hutchinson brought Scotland right back into the game. But Scotland’s scoring would end there as Gonzalo Bertranou’s try a minute later was followed by an Emiliano Boffelli penalty to secure the result for Argentina.

What they said

Scotland scrum-half Ben White is eager to make every minute count in the jersey and will be delighted to have been handed a start in this week’s second Test.

“The main thing for me is that every time now that I pull on the shirt, I want to do everything I can to make sure that I give those people who want us to do so well the same. I want to make sure I do everything I can to give the nation that joy that they had that day,” he said.

“I know how much it means to people and how much it means to me.

“Every time is a complete honour and something I will never take for granted. I will love every minute and just want to do well every minute and I will give my all.”

Meanwhile, Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend knows it’s a must-win game for his side if they’re to keep the series alive and wants more from his side this week.

“It’s a cup semi-final and we have got to make sure we put our game out there. We didn’t do that at the weekend. We were, I suppose, frustrated with the performance and the errors that we made but frustrated with the game, it became stop-start. It was the lowest ball-in-play time we have ever had as a team,” he said.

“But if that happens at the weekend we have got to make sure that, when the ball is in play, for either team, we play much better.

“We know this tour is about a number of things: it’s about seeing a group of players coming together for four weeks and seeing how that environment is; it’s about giving players opportunities, but it is about winning. It’s about winning a Test series and we have made it more difficult for ourselves now not winning the first Test. But all of our efforts are getting put into winning this weekend.”

Players to watch

Saturday is a big opportunity for fly-half Santiago Carreras to press his claims for the starting 10 jersey going into the Rugby World Cup. With Sanchez ruled out due to a leg injury, the Gloucester back, who is used elsewhere by the Cherry and Whites, is handed the playmaking role and has impressed when given the reins at Test level in the past. If Carreras can forge a combination with the ever dangerous full-back Boffelli then Argentina’s attack promises a great deal.

For Scotland, it’s hard to ignore milestone man Hamish Watson on his 50th cap as the flanker teams up with Darge and Matt Fagerson in an exciting back-row. Watson’s strengths are well known and his punch in contact will be welcome viewing for Scotland fans and his team-mates as they look to win the battle up front against the Pumas. If Watson and Darge can see plenty of ball and subsequently make inroads then the chances of a victory will drastically increase.

Main head-to-head

The aforementioned Emiliano Boffelli is shifted from left wing to full-back this week in the absence of Juan Cruz Mallia and his battle with Scotland’s Rory Hutchinson should bring plenty in terms of entertainment. Both players glide across the grass and see space others simply do not, so if they find plenty of ball, watchers can expect a great duel. Duhan van der Merwe in particular was starved of possession last week so Hutchinson will hope to unlock space for his hulking wing and the same goes for Boffelli with Juan Imhoff, who gets a start for the second Test after missing the first. All are key to their respective sides’ hopes.

Prediction

While the absence of Matera is a setback and conversely Scotland have Watson back in the fold, on paper we just feel the Pumas still have the edge and can get the job done at the first time of asking to make it 2-0 in the series. Scotland will push them hard but a narrow home win is expected. Argentina by five.

Previous results

2022: Argentina won 26-18 in Jujuy
2018: Scotland won 14-9 in Edinburgh
2018: Scotland won 44-15 in Resistencia
2016: Scotland won 19-16 in Edinburgh
2014: Scotland won 41-31 in Edinburgh
2014: Scotland won 21-19 in Cordoba
2011: Argentina won 13-12 in Wellington
2010: Scotland won 13-9 in Mar del Plata
2010: Scotland won 24-16 in Tucuman

The teams

Argentina: 15 Emiliano Boffelli, 14 Santiago Cordero, 13 Matias Orlando, 12 Jerónimo de la Fuente, 11 Juan Imhoff, 10 Santiago Carreras, 9 Gonzalo Bertranou, 8 Rodrigo Bruni, 7 Marcos Kremer, 6 Juan Martín González, 5 Matías Alemanno, 4 Guido Petti, 3 Francisco Gómez Kodela, 2 Julián Montoya (c), 1 Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro
Replacements: 16 Agustin Creevy, 17 Mayco Vivas, 18 Joel Sclavi, 19 Lucas Paulos, 20 Facundo Isa, 21 Felipe Ezcurra, 22 Domingo Miotti, 23 Matias Moroni

Scotland: 15 Rory Hutchinson, 14 Darcy Graham, 13 Mark Bennett, 12 Sam Johnson, 11 Duhan van der Merwe, 10 Blair Kinghorn, 9 Ben White, 8 Matt Fagerson, 7 Hamish Watson, 6 Rory Darge, 5 Grant Gilchrist (c), 4 Sam Skinner, 3 Zander Fagerson, 2 Dave Cherry, 1 Pierre Schoeman
Replacements: 16 George Turner, 17 Jamie Bhatti, 18 Javan Sebastian, 19 Scott Cummings, 20 Andy Christie, 21 Ali Price, 22 Ross Thompson, 23 Kyle Rowe

Date: Saturday, July 9
Venue: Estadio Padre Ernesto Martearena, Salta
Kick-off: 16:10 local (20:10 BST, 19:10 GMT)
Referee: Mattieu Raynal (France)
Assistant Referees: Ben O’Keeffe (New Zealand), Pierre Brousset (France)
TMO: Brian MacNeice (Ireland)

READ MORE: Scotland: Hamish Watson to make 50th Test appearance in clash against Argentina

The article Argentina v Scotland preview: Pumas to finish the job and claim series win on home soil appeared first on Planetrugby.com.

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