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09 Oct 2007 11:12
Argentina are expecting their World Cup semifinal against South Africa in Paris on Sunday to be a bruising, no-holds barred encounter.
The Pumas won through to the last four of the tournament for the first time with a narrow 19-13 win over Scotland in the quarterfinals at the Stade de France last Sunday.
That followed impressive group stage wins over France (17-12) in the tournament opener and over Ireland (30-15) to clinch a place in the quarterfinals.
Those three wins were largely due to the impressive performances of the big Argentine pack, but the South Americans know it will likely be even tougher against the muscular Springboks, who defeated Fiji to reach the last four.
“It’s going to be very physical,” said assistant coach and former England international Les Cusworth.
“They have a lot of experience, very good set-pieces, a competition like the Tri-Nations, good backs like the pair of centres or [Bryan] Habana, and a fullback like Percy Montgomery, who is one of the best in the world.
“But we do see some weaknesses in the team. We played against them in 2004, and with a team that wasn’t our best team we were able to score three tries against them.
We have never beaten them and we respect them a lot for their history.”
Flanker Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe agreed that the physical battle will be intense against the South Africans, who have blown hot and cold so far in the competition.
And he warned his teammates that they must not allow themselves to lose control of their game and concentration as they did in the last quarter against Scotland, which almost cost them the match.
“We can’t let ourselves go out of the match like we did then,” he said.
“In this world cup, if you let yourself do things like that, you’ll have points scored against you.”
Pumas number eight Juan Manuel Leguizamon, meanwhile, said that he was recovering from the sprained elbow he sustained playing against the Scots and was optimistic he would be fully fit by the weekend.
“I’m fine,” he said.
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