18 August 2014
The Springboks battled to a 13-6 victory over Argentina at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria on the weekend to go top of the Castle Lager Rugby Championship after the opening round.
Australia and New Zealand played to a 12-12 draw in Sydney, and heavy rain in Pretoria ensured that the clash between the Springboks and Pumas would also be a tightly-contested affair.
South African captain Jean de Villiers labelled the conditions “probably the worst I have ever played in”, and it showed as both teams regularly turned over possession in the tackle and at rucks and mauls.
Only one try was scored in the game, and it came in just the second minute when the Springboks broke down the blind side and Cornal Hendricks fed Ruan Pienaar, who sprinted away to dive and slide over in the right hand corner.
Handre Pollard added an excellent conversion from a difficult angle, but five minutes later Argentina reduced the deficit to four points when flyhalf Nicholas Sanchez slotted a penalty after the Pumas’ pack had overrun South Africa at scrum time.
Pollard opened up the gap again after 17 minutes when he landed a penalty after the Pumas were penalised for pushing early at scrum time.
Sanchez slotted a penalty for Argentina early in the second half after Bok lock Lood de Jager was blown up for not rolling away quickly enough at a ruck, but only seven minutes later the visitors conceded a peanlty for the same reason and Morne Steyn, who had come off the bench, nailed the kick to make it 13-6. Those points proved to be the last of the match.
Afterwards, Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer took an optimistic view of his charges’ performances, saying: “We had a 20-year old (Handre Pollard) running play at flyhalf and a 21-year old (Lood de Jager) calling the line-outs and they did very well.
“We showed a lot of character by keeping them out from our line,” he said of Argentinian pressure right before the final whistle. “They had two great line-out options near our line and our guys kept them out. I am very happy with that.”
A difficult contest
Meyer said the trying conditions and Argentina’s style of play made for a difficult contest.
“They are not a continuity team, they are a contesting team, so it not always easy to get a flow to your match,” Meyer explained.
“We played well for 30 minutes, but we did not get the points to justify that and that affected us, as we had our mind set on attacking play.
“Their kicking game was better than ours tonight, but luckily [fullback] Willie [le Roux] was excellent.’
Meyer said the draw between the Wallabies and All Blacks in Sydney earlier in the day had no effect on the Springboks’ approach to the their test against the Pumas.
“The result in Sydney had no impact on our frame of mind or style of play. We want to win all our matches, because then we will be good for winning the Championship,” he said.
“Don’t read too much into this match. The new combinations worked well for us.
“The new guys showed the character I expected from them. A lot of the guys are 23 years and younger. I will be happy to keep on winning, even if it is by one point in every match. That is what rugby is all about.”
Influence of the weather
Springbok captain Jean de Villiers said the terrible conditions meant his team could not play the type of game they wanted to play. “Still, our guys came through nicely,” he said.
“We could not play the brand we wanted to. We have five matches left to do it. Now we must regroup and do it in Salta [where the Springboks play Argentina on Saturday].
“Our execution was poor tonight. We did not expect these conditions, so adapted as best we could. We were looking for five points, but the fact that we got four is still very pleasing.”