25 August 2014
The Springboks retained their lead at the top of the Castle Lager Rugby Championship after unconvincingly edging Argentina 33-31 in Salta on Saturday.
The Pumas will look back on the test as a big opportunity missed to record their first victory ever over the Springboks. Had they won, few would have said they did not deserve it.
‘They played some great rugby’
Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer, however, looked back on the match as another important win for his charges. “All credit to Argentina, though,” he said. “They’ve been together for a month and you could see that today as they played some great rugby.
“We don’t want to say every week that we’ve shown great character, but we’ve now won nine out of our last 10 away games, and I think the guys have shown that they know how to win.
“At one stage, we were down and out and the team came back. We know there are a lot of areas we have to work on, but we’re still in this competition.”
Argentina came out of the blocks at speed, with their set scrum worryingly dominating the South African pack and winning a number of penalties.
They also showed a willingness to move the ball through the hands and out wide, a more extravagant approach than one has traditionally seen from the South Americans, and were rewarded with three tries to backline players Manuel Montero, Tomas Cubelli and Joaquin Tuculet.
Argentina dictated matters in the first 25 minutes of the contest to race into a 13-6 lead, but South Africa pulled it back to sneak in front 16-13 at the break. After the restart, the Pumas again took it to the Boks and powered into a 28-16 lead. Victory appeared to be within their grasp.
Strong showing from the bench
However, it was not to be as the Springboks, aided by a strong showing from their bench, finished strongly to claim a come-from-behind victory. It, maybe, had more to do with Argentina’s anxiety about finally beating South Africa, given their poor past record, rather than the men in green and gold’s excellence.
Bryan Habana, Cornal Hendricks and Marcell Coetzee dotted down for the Boks, while Handre Pollard added a conversion and three penalties, with Morne Steyn knocking over a further two conversions and a penalty, with the three-pointer, which came in the 76th minute, proving the match decider.
‘A much better team than their world ranking’
“I’ve said it before, but I really think Argentina is a much better team than what their world-ranking of twelfth shows, and they showed it again today,” said De Villiers after the match.
“We’re happy that we could pull it through, but it could’ve gone either way.”
He also paid tribute to the impact of the Springbok substitutes. “That is not saying that the players who started did badly, but our bench, whom we see as impact players rather than replacements, certainly made an impact today and that is probably where the difference was,” De Villiers explained.
The Springboks’ next outing is against Australia in Perth on 6 August, followed by a clash with New Zealand on 13 September in Wellington. The All Blacks thrashed the Wallabies 51-20 on Saturday to move within a point of South Africa at the top of the standings.
Despite the ferociousness of the contest in Salta, the Boks have only one big injury concern and that is tighthead prop Frans Malherbe, who suffered a right ankle injury, which forced him from the field late in the match.
He will see a specialist in Cape Town before a decision is made on his fitness and a possible replacement.