Springboks, Pumas poles apart ahead of World Cup warm-up

Coach Rassie Erasmus. (AP)
Updated 16 August 2019

Springboks, Pumas poles apart ahead of World Cup warm-up

JOHANNESBURG: South Africa and Argentina are poles apart going into a Rugby World Cup warm-up match in Pretoria Saturday, just one week after Handre Pollard starred as the Springboks embarrassed the Pumas 46-13.
While the South Africans are on the rise and looking increasingly like contenders to win the global championship a record-equalling third time, the Argentines are in the doldrums.
Since mid-July, the Springboks have won convincingly at home to Australia and away to Argentina and drawn with world champions New Zealand in Wellington to lift the Rugby Championship for the first time.
But the Pumas lost all three matches in the southern hemisphere competition reduced from a traditional six rounds to three because the World Cup kicks off in Japan on September 20.
Those losses stretched to eight the number of consecutive defeats and they have won only eight of 40 matches since coming fourth behind New Zealand, Australia and South Africa at the last World Cup.
South Africa were in serious trouble two years back after a 57-0 mauling by the All Blacks at the same Wellington ground where the Springboks have won and drawn in subsequent seasons.
The Springboks and Pumas changed coaches since the last World Cup with differing results as Rassie Erasmus turned the tide while Mario Ledesma has been unable to replicate the form of four years ago.
Cynics will label the Pretoria Test a B international as South Africa have changed the entire team that cruised to victory last Saturday while Argentina have kept only five of the humiliated side.
Erasmus says he knows “about 80 percent” of his 31 man squad, due to be named on Monday August 26, and the match at Loftus Versfeld stadium is the last chance for marginal contenders to impress.
That tag fits a number of Springboks, including full-back Warrick Gelant, center Andre Esterhuizen and winger Dillyn Leyds among the backs.
Props Thomas du Toit and Vincent Koch and loose forward Rynhardt Elstadt and Marcell Coetzee are other borderline cases who could secure a flight to Tokyo with an outstanding performance.
“I have spoken to the players and everyone knows where we are regarding the squad,” said Erasmus, a former Springbok loose forward in his second season as national coach.
“It is a tough situation because I can only choose 31 players and the list of genuine challengers is much larger.”
Apart from the players in make-of-break scenarios, the Springboks coach will be watch loose forward and first choice captain Siya Kolisi with great interest.
Chosen as the first black Test skipper of South Africa last year, Kolisi injured a knee three months ago and this will be his first international appearance of the season.
To lift the added burden of the captaincy away from him while he seeks full fitness, Erasmus named veteran hooker Schalk Brits to lead the Springboks this weekend.
“This is a temporary measure as Siya may not even play the full first half,” the coach emphasised. “He will lead South Africa at the World Cup provided he is fit.”
South Africa share Pool B in Japan with trophy-holders New Zealand, Canada, Italy and Namibia while Argentina come up against England, France, Tonga and the United States in Pool C.
A malfunctioning scrum is the biggest headache facing former Pumas hooker Ledesma with the South Americans conceding a string of penalties last weekend and been forced to backpedal several times.
“You cannot hope to win internationals when your scrum is not functioning properly,” stressed the Argentine coach.
For Pretoria, he has promoted loosehead Mayco Vivas, hooker Julian Montoya and tighthead Santiago Medrano, but all have been tried before and found wanting.

Gasol clinches rare NBA-World Cup double as Spain down Argentina

Updated 16 September 2019

Gasol clinches rare NBA-World Cup double as Spain down Argentina

  • Toronto Raptors center Mark Gasol becomes the second player to win an NBA title and a FIBA world gold medal in the same year


BEIJING: Three-time All-Star Marc Gasol became only the second man to win an NBA crown and the World Cup in the same year after Spain brushed aside Argentina 95-75 on Sunday.

Spain, who survived double overtime against Australia to reach the final, led throughout in Beijing to win international basketball’s biggest prize a second time.

The only previous occasion was in 2006 with the two Gasol brothers, Marc and older sibling Pau, on the team.

Pau did not feature in China because of injury.

The latest triumph was particularly sweet for the 34-year-old center Gasol, who three months ago also played a key part in the Toronto Raptors’ run to the NBA title.

Gasol, who had 14 points, seven rebounds and seven assists, joins Lamar Odom, a double winner in 2010 with the US and Los Angeles Lakers.

Surprise finalists Argentina had not triumphed since they hosted the inaugural World Cup in 1950.

As a contest, the final was over by the fourth quarter — although the Argentines did rally belatedly to reduce Spain’s previously mighty lead.

Fans of both teams had made it feel more like a football match, decked out in their national colors, chanting loudly and refusing to sit down.

Spain, for whom Ricky Rubio of the Phoenix Suns has been one of the leading players of the tournament in China, surged into a 14-2 lead.

In front of a capacity crowd, Argentina’s 39-year-old talisman Luis Scola could not escape the attentions of Pierre Oriola.

Led by their slick-haired Italian coach Sergio Scariolo, Spain were up 21-14 going into the second quarter and increased their advantage to 43-31 at halftime.

With Rubio prominent, drilling 20 points, Spain never looked like surrendering their lead, repeatedly thwarting Argentina’s suffocated offense.

France roared back after halftime to defeat Australia 67-59 and claim a second World Cup bronze in a row — and extend the Boomers’ long wait for a major medal.

Turkish-based guard Nando De Colo led all scorers with 19 points for France and Nicolas Batum had nine points, six assists, three rebounds and three steals.

The French, one of the tallest teams at the tournament, defeated reigning two-time holders the US in the quarterfinals, but then lost heavily to Argentina.

“For us it’s something very, very special and important we did it after a very difficult first half,” French coach Vincent Collet said.

“Many teams could have given up, even easy shots we were missing in the first half.

“We started to move the ball better in the second half and that’s why we won this game.”

It was hard on Australia, who similarly led for long periods in their semifinal against Spain.

It is still the best finish for the Boomers, who had never gone beyond the quarterfinals at 11 previous World Cups, but they are yet to claim a medal at the worlds or Olympics.

Deposed champions the US, who were missing their elite names, finished seventh, their lowest position in tournament history.

They did, at least, qualify to defend their Olympic title in Tokyo next summer. With 32 teams, this was the biggest Basketball World Cup ever.

The next one will be in 2023 in Japan, Indonesia and the Philippines.