Rugby Union: Argentina ready to show strength

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The Independent Online
Their amateur status may seem charmingly quaint in comparison to the unseemly race for riches in England, but the Argentinian tourists served notice yesterday that there will be nothing whimsical about their visit to Twickenham this weekend.

Hugely encouraged by their fiercely combative performance against a strong England A line-up at Northampton on Tuesday night, they have picked a side designed to stretch their hosts beyond the bounds of comfort in Saturday's Test.

Pedro Sporleder, their outstanding lock forward, rejoins the squad after a brief business visit to New York and teams up once more with the equally effective German Llanes in the second row; in front of them, the rugged props Roberto Grau and Mauricio Reggiardo will link up with the hooker Carlos Promanzio, who wins his fifth cap. According to the Pumas, that front five is capable of asking England almost as many questions as their outstanding predecessors posed at last year's World Cup in South Africa.

Promanzio replaces Federico Mendez, the best Argentinian player since Hugo Porta. Mendez has joined Bath and will not play international rugby in the immediate future while the World Cup props, Patricio Noriega and Matias Corral, are living in Australia and America respectively. But while the front row has changed completely, the engine room has a disturbingly familiar look to it; Sporleder and Llanes were the men who caused England so much line-out hassle in that last encounter in Durban.

The strength of the Puma squad is underlined by the fact that only five of the side that performed so strongly at Franklins Gardens have made the Test side. There are no new caps, although the head coach, Jose Luis Imhoff, has made five changes to the side who went under against the Springboks last month. Most intriguing among them is the big-kicking outside-half, Gonzalo Quesada, who was brought into the team for this year's Pan-American Cup and scored 41 points in three outings against the United States, Uruguay and Canada. He has yet to taste defeat in a Test match.

Argentina look like they will have to face Jason Leonard after all. England's most capped prop, who missed Harlequins' defeat by Bath last weekend with a hamstring injury, has resumed training with the squad.

Meanwhile, Gary Teichmann admits the gloss has been taken off South Africa's World Cup triumph by their series defeat against New Zealand in the summer - but they intend to be at their best when they complete a punishing 13- Test programme by meeting Wales on Sunday in Cardiff.

Teichmann, South Africa's captain, and the coach, Andre Markgraaf, refused to accept it could be one international too far following successive 2- 0 series triumphs over Argentina and France. "This will be our 13th international this year, but I don't think it is a question of us playing too many Test matches," Teichmann said.

Despite inevitable fatigue, South Africa are unchanged for the fifth successive Test. They include the World Cup players Andre Joubert, Joost van der Westhuizen and Ruben Kruger against Wales. Markgraaf believes this trip has helped settle South African rugby down. "However physically demanding it may have been, we can only benefit from this tour," he said. "This has been our toughest-ever season, not made any easier by our standing as world champions."

ARGENTINA (v England, Twickenham, Saturday): E Jurado (Rosario); G Camardon (Buenos Aires), E Simone (BA), L Arbizu (BA, capt), D Albanese (BA); G Quesada (BA), N Miranda (BA); R Grau (Cuyo), C Promanzio (Rosario), M Reggiardo (Castres, Fr), P Sporleder (BA), G Llanes (BA), R Martin (BA), P Bouza (Rosario), P Camerlinckx (BA). Replacements: C Barrea (Cordoba), F Garcia (BA), F Soler (Cordoba), M Scelzo (BA), O Hasan (Tucuman), R Perez (Rosario).

SOUTH AFRICA (v Wales, Cardiff Arms Park, Sunday): A Joubert (Natal); J Small (Natal), J Mulder (Transvaal), H Le Roux (Transvaal), J Olivier (N Transvaal); H Honiball (Natal), J van der Westhuizen (N Transvaal); D Theron (Griqaland West), J Dalton (Transvaal), A Garvey (Natal), K Weise (Transvaal), M Andrews (Natal), R Kruger (N Transvaal), G Teichmann (Natal, capt), A Venter (Orange Free State). Replacements: K Putt (Natal), A Snyman (N Transvaal), W Fyvie (Natal), F van Heerden (Western Province), T van der Linde (Western Province), H Tromp (N Transvaal).