Durban — It is surely not a coincidence that the Pumas have recalled the hat-trick hero of their 2015 victory over the Springboks in Durban for Saturday’s Rugby Championship finale at Kings Park.
Clearly, they are hoping that Juan Imhoff, the left wing that memorable day for Argentinian rugby, will reprise his incredible performance that went a long way to sinking the South Africans just weeks before they left for the 2015 World Cup in England.
It is not inconceivable that the hammer blow to their confidence the Boks suffered that day contributed to them suffering another record loss when they arrived in England — they lost to Japan for the time ever in their first pool match.
As it turned out, the Boks ended up playing Argentina in the bronze-medal match at the end of that World Cup, comfortably winning 24-13, but it was little solace for the horror of losing to the Pumas for the first time ever on that bleak winter’s day in Durban.
The Pumas had lost their previous 19 matches against the Boks and the passionate singing and dancing in their change-room at Kings Park were wonderful to behold and it went on late into the night.
The Boks were mortified after the thorough 37-25 defeat and coach Heyneke Meyer and captain Jean de Villiers resembled ghosts when they attended the press conference.
That day, Siya Kolisi and Pieter-Steph du Toit came on as substitutes, while there are a host of survivors from the starting XV of 2015 — Willie le Roux, Jesse Kriel, Damian de Allende, Lood de Jager and Eben Etzebeth all played and they will surely be telling their current teammates that you underestimate the Pumas at your peril.
Kriel, in particular, could be excused if he has nightmares on Friday night because he was the right wing who attempted to mark Imhoff.
Imhoff is now 34, a ripe old age for a wing and he wins only his 40th cap, but that is because he was not available for selection for a number of seasons when he was playing for the French club Racing 92.
Imhoff is extremely deadly — he has scored 21 tries in his 39 Tests and he is a big-match player. Just ask the All Blacks who were on the receiving end of some lethal attacks by Imhoff when the Pumas beat the Kiwis for the first time in 2020.
Imhoff will start on the wing in place of Lucio Cinti.
In the only other change to the Pumas’ starting lineup, Matias Moroni replaces Matias Orlando at outside centre.
There are two new inclusions on the bench in the form of outside back Bautista Delguy and uncapped 20-year-old rookie loose forward Pedro Rubiolo.
Argentina – 15 Juan Cruz Mallia, 14 Emiliano Boffelli, 13 Matias Moroni , 12 Jeronimo De La Fuente, 11 Juan Imhoff, 10 Santiago Carreras, 9 Gonzalo Bertranou, 8 Pablo Matera, 7 Marcos Kremer, 6 Juan Martin Gonzalez, 5 Tomas Lavanini, 4 Matias Alemanno, 3 Eduardo Bello, 2 Julian Montoya (c), 1 Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro
Subs: 16 Agustin Creevy, 17 Mayco Vivas, 18 Joel Sclavi, 19 Guido Petti, 20 Pedro Rubiolo, 21 Tomas Cubelli, 22 Benjamin Urdapilleta, 23 Bautista Delguy