Argentina without skipper Fernandez Lobbe vs. Boks
JOHANNESBURG (AP) — Argentina will open its second Rugby Championship campaign without captain Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe after the No. 8 was ruled out of Saturday’s test against South Africa with a left calf injury.
The loose forward was replaced as captain by experienced center Felipe Contepomi in coach Santiago Phelan’s team selection on Tuesday. Leonardo Senatore, Fernandez Lobbe’s former teammate at French club Toulon, will start at No. 8 for Argentina’s regular skipper.
The Pumas were boosted by the return from injury of 52-cap second-rower Patricio Albacete, who recovered from a torn left calf muscle to face the No. 2-ranked Springboks at FNB Stadium in Soweto, formerly Soccer City.
Argentina is seeking its first win over South Africa and its first victory in the southern hemisphere championship having drawn one game — against the Springboks — and lost five in its debut tournament last year.
Although the newcomers ultimately finished last in 2012, they narrowly missed beating South Africa in a 16-16 draw at home in Mendoza and twice pushed Australia close in their first foray against the world’s top teams.
Rugby Championship and World Cup champion New Zealand, South Africa and Australia are ranked Nos. 1, 2 and 3 in the world. Argentina is No. 10.
Contepomi, who turns 36 next week and has 81 test caps, will play his first game in the championship and was picked alongside Marcelo Bosch in the center. Flyhalf Nicolas Sanchez will earn a ninth cap and flankers Juan Manuel Leguizamon and Pablo Matera completed the loose forward trio alongside Senatore.
Hampered by the absence of Fernandez Lobbe, Argentina also will likely face a big and emotional home crowd at the former World Cup stadium on the outskirts of Johannesburg with South Africa dedicating the day to 95-year-old former President Nelson Mandela, who has spent more than two months in a hospital in the capital, Pretoria.
In a rare sports double-header to honor the anti-apartheid leader, South Africa’s national football team will play against Burkina Faso at the same stadium earlier on Saturday.
Juan Martin Hernandez, Gonzalo Camacho, Marcelo Bosch, Felipe Contepomi (captain), Juan Imhoff, Nicolas Sanchez, Martin Landajo; Leonardo Senatore, Juan Manuel Leguizamon, Pablo Matera, Patricio Albacete, Manuel Carizza, Matias Diaz, Eusebio Guinazu, Juan Figallo. Replacements: Agustin Creevy, Nahuel Lobo, Juan Pablo Orlandi, Mariano Galarza, Julio Farias Cabello, Tomas Cubelli, Santiago Fernandez, Horacio Agulla.