Welcome to the big time: Pumas begin campaign in the Rugby champioinship.
Welcome to the big time: Pumas begin campaign in the Rugby champioinship. NZ Herald - Mark Mitchell

Pumas to run with the big cats

ARGENTINA will face a baptism of fire in Cape Town in the early hours of tomorrow when the Pumas make their debut in the inaugural Rugby Championship.

The Springboks are ready and waiting - a team Argentina have never beaten.

Winger Gonzalo Camacho said the day of reckoning had now arrived for the Pumas - there is no going back.

"We have been feeling the pressure and climate of heading into a huge game, the test will be huge," he said. "It is historical because South Africa is a world (rugby) power, an elite side, and because it is a tournament that we have to prove ourselves in."

Argentina fly-half Juan Martin Hernandez will make his first test appearance in three years having suffered a string of injuries since helping his country finish third at the 2007 World Cup.

The starting line-up includes 14 players who play in Europe, with only flanker Julio Farias Cabello playing in Argentina.

Very few pundits are giving Argentina a chance of upsetting the Springboks, but Pumas coach Santiago Phelan is confident that his charges will acquit themselves well.

"We always go onto the field with the intention of winning for Argentina. Other people's expectations do not matter to me," he said. "We as a team will always give 100% to produce our best effort and attempt to get the best result," he said.

South Africa made six changes to the team who drew 14-14 with England in the third test in June, with No.8 Keegan Daniel coming in for his first test start after replacing the injured Pierre Spies.

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