Coach Heyneke Meyer began the week by stressing the importance of obtaining bonus points, and previous results, both against Argentina and at Loftus Versfeld, merely increase the expectation.
The Pumas’ four previous visits to the Highveld have always resulted in the Springboks running riot, winning 73-13 last year in Soweto, 63-9 at Ellis Park in 2008, 49-29 in Springs in 2002, and 46-26 in Johannesburg in 1994.
Since winning the series against the British and Irish Lions there in a three-point thriller in 2009, Loftus Versfeld has also been a high-scoring venue for the Springboks – beating Australia 44-31 in 2010 and 31-8 in 2012, and Samoa 56-23 last year.
But De Villiers preached caution on Friday.
“Argentina have selected a very strong side and we’re not looking past tomorrow, which is our most important game. We ended the incoming tours well and now we need to take that momentum into the Rugby Championship.
“Whatever happened before is in the past, it’s a brand new ball game. We have to start well and focus on what we do as individuals and collectively.
“It’s really about getting the first phases right and getting a platform. We’re not thinking about the bonus point, we’ll get the result if all the processes are in place, if we tick all those boxes,” De Villiers said.
The Pumas’ tight five has just 105 caps between them, compared to the 251 of their Springbok counterparts, but the Argentina loose trio is a force to be reckoned with, boasting the experienced Juan Manuel Leguizamon and Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe, and the prodigious talent of Pablo Matera.
“They certainly have a good loose trio, they’re all quality players. Leguizamon and Lobbe have been around for a while and it’s going to be a real challenge at the breakdown, they’ve shown what we can do there.
“But I’m looking forward to the battle of the breakdown because we’ve got a good combination there as well,” De Villiers said.
The Pumas backline certainly has the potential to stretch the Springbok defences, especially with the increasingly expansive approach new coach Daniel Hourcade is advocating.
“Their nine [Martin Landajo] and 10 [Nicolas Sanchez] are an established combination and I played with Martin Landajo at the Barbarians, he’s a very good player.
“They have a lot of experience in midfield, Juan Martin Hernandez is a very gifted player and Marcelo Bosch has done really well at Saracens. So they will definitely challenge us defensively and we’ll need to be at our best,” De Villiers said.
The Pumas are streets ahead of the Springboks in terms of preparation, having been in camp for six weeks compared to just the two weeks Meyer has had to work with De Villiers and company.
But the Springbok captain said his team were happy with their preparation.
“It’s more time together than we’ve had in the past and we’re very happy with our preparation.”
Argentina could, in fact, have over-trained for the Test, with Hourcade apparently having his team out on the field three times a day.
Significantly for the Springboks, Saturday’s Test will mark the first Rugby Championship starts for flyhalf Handre Pollard, outside centre Damian de Allende and right wing Cornal Hendricks.
De Villiers, appearing in his 97th Test, will play between Pollard and De Allende and he said he was looking forward to guiding two of the future stars of Springbok rugby.
“It’s great to see guys come through and get their opportunity, Handre and Damian have showed that they are good enough.
“Handre showed in Port Elizabeth against Scotland that he ticks all the boxes as a world-class flyhalf. I’m very excited to play next to him for the first time, I’ve watched him since he started playing for the same school as me [Paarl Gymnasium] and it’s great to see how well he’s done,” De Villiers said.
The Pumas will undoubtedly be tricky customers on Saturday, but the Springboks need to win well in order to reinforce their standing as the All Blacks’ nearest challengers.