Argentina have grown accustomed to fielding different squads depending on the occasion and the sides that played their previous international, against Scotland in Cordoba; their last match of 2013, against Italy in Rome; and their previous Rugby Championship fixture, versus the Wallabies in Rosario; are all very dissimilar.
Only two players that started the 21-19 defeat to Scotland will feature against the Springboks, while there are nine changes and a positional switch to the side that beat Italy 19-14 and only 11 of the 23 that were hammered 54-17 by Australia have survived for the next Rugby Championship engagement.
Players such as the retired midfield star Felipe Contepomi, injured wing Juan Imhoff, hooker Eusebio Guinazu and experienced locks Patricio Albacete and Manuel Carizza are all conspicuous by their absence, but Hourcade struck a defiant tone when announcing the team on Thursday.
“It is a young team without much experience, but they are quality players with a lot of capacity. We believe that we have very good players in this side and we want to give them experience and support them,” Hourcade said.
The new Pumas coach acknowledges that his team are the underdogs against the Springboks, who thrashed them 73-13 a year ago in Soweto, but he believes they can help grow his side.
“South Africa are a great team, with a very good coach and a very strong mentality. They are at the point of ascending.
“But this is an excellent chance for us to build as a team. We’re prepared for what South Africa will bring.
“Last year’s match here we will take as part of our experience, it was down to attitude and it was an important lesson. It was part of the process, we will learn off those results and continue that process,” the 56-year-old said.
One area where Argentina do traditionally boast plenty of firepower is in the scrum and the presence of Leicester Tigers veteran Marcos Ayerza in the number one jersey will certainly pique the interest of Springbok tightheads Jannie du Plessis and Frans Malherbe.
“Argentina are always a big test, but I’m looking forward to it. I haven’t played them before and I haven’t scrummed against them.
“It’s a massive opportunity for me to secure my spot as the back-up tighthead and it’s all up to me to take it, that’s the bottom line. It comes down to my primary role, if I don’t do that well then I won’t be selected, but the goal is to become a more modern forward, with more mobility and ball skills,” Malherbe said.
While Argentina have been understandably conservative in their first two years of Rugby Championship participation, Hourcade says they need to do more with the ball if they are to beat one of the big three.
“When we consider the teams we are playing against, then we have to take risks. If we just play slowly then all we are doing is trying to stop the inevitable ending, we know we will lose.
“We need to move the ball more and play quicker, it does have risks but we assume that risk. We will make some mistakes, but that’s part of the game and the only way to grow this team,” Hourcade said.
Centres Juan-Martin Hernandez and Marcelo Bosch are certainly looking forward to getting their hands on the ball more often.
“For me personally, I prefer to have the ball in my hands rather than having to tackle. I’m happier with the current approach, but we know we are playing against the three best teams in the world and it will be tough.
“There’s a lot of responsibility on us to manage the ball, but first of all we have to obtain the ball. There are steps you have to go through before you can play that style,” outside centre Bosch said.
As positive as the Pumas might want to be, the numbers that matter will be amongst the forwards, in terms of securing first-phase possession, dominating the gain-line and winning turnovers.
A number that may be decisive is 140 – the difference between the 411 Test caps the Springbok pack and five replacements have, compared to the 271 of their counterparts.
Argentina team (caps in brackets): 15-Joaquin Tuculet (11), 14-Horacio Agulla (51), 13-Marcelo Bosch (25), 12-Juan-Martin Hernandez (44), 11-Manuel Montero (13), 10-Nicolas Sanchez (21), 9-Martin Landajo (31), 8-Juan-Manuel Leguizamon (55), 7-Juan-Martin Fernandez Lobbe (56), 6-Pablo Matera (11), 5-Tomas Lavanini (9), 4-Mariano Galarza (18), 3-Ramiro Herrera (2), 2-Agustin Creevy (28), 1-Marcos Ayerza (48). Substitutes – 16-Matias Cortese (7), 17-Lucas Noguera Paz (5), 18-Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro (7), 19-Matias Alemanno (5), 20-Leonardo Senatore (20), 21-Tomas Cubelli (25), 22-Santiago Gonzalez Iglesias (7), 23-Lucas Gonzalez Amorosino (33).