The Springboks made it two wins from two when they beat Argentina in their Rugby Championship game at the Nelson Mandela Stadium in Gqeberha on Saturday.
DURBAN – Like an anaconda enveloping its prey, the Springboks squeezed the life out of the Pumas at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, their crushing 29-10 win propelling them to the top of the Rugby Championship, but there will be some disappointment that the bonus-point try was not secured given the dominance.
Just when the Boks will play again is anybody’s guess as the Championship hangs in the balance because New Zealand have closed their borders to travel, thrusting the competition into limbo.
The Boks and the Pumas were due to board a flight together for Perth tomorrow (Sunday) but with that out of the window and the competition on pause, the South Africans suddenly have an opportunity to enjoy a break after playing five Test matches on consecutive weekends and winning four of them — the loss being the first Test reverse to the Lions.
And they can reflect on a job well done particularly given the standing start they had when they had to warm up against Georgia two months ago after 19 months of inactivity.
The Boks have their critics in Europe and New Zealand because their brand of rugby isn’t easy on the eye, apparently, but then beauty is in the eye of the beholder and there is nothing unappealing about a winning scoreboard.
And like it or leave it, there has to be some form of admiration for a forward power game that relentlessly, mercilessly, grinds down all before them.
And these Pumas are not mugs. Before they came to South African two weeks ago they had won five of their previous six Tests, including a historic win over the All Blacks. And if they were caught off guard in the previous week’s match against the Boks, they came with attitude for this one.
It was evident from the first whistle, in fact from their very emotional singing of their national anthem, that the Pumas aimed to be a different proposition this time, but attitude can only get you so far if you do not have the muscle to back it up.
In the first half, the Boks were clearly stronger upfront and while the Pumas managed to keep their try-line intact (until the 42nd minute), they could not stop the penalties coming as the Boks’ slow poison took hold and Handré Pollard kicked them over at regular intervals, five of them in total for a 15-3 half-time lead.
It was a half in which the Argentinians leaked as many penalties as they did points (15), and the pressure told on No 8 Rodrigo Brunie when he went deliberately offside in the 35th minute and was yellow-carded for his sins.
A man down and overpowered upfront, the situation was ominous for the visitors. When they did get the ball, they were forced to play behind the advantage line as they were harried and hustled by the marauding Boks.
Not long after half time, the dam wall did eventually break, with a series of attacks on the Pumas’ line freeing up space out wide for Makazole Mapimpi to canter home for his 16th try in 17 Tests, and a 22-3 lead.
An area where the Boks ruled supreme was the breakdowns, where penalties were won by Steven Kitshoff, Thomas du Toit and twice by Malcolm Marx, who was incredibly strong over the ball and it was well deserved when the hooker got the Boks’ second try, off the back of a driving maul.
At 29-3 with 30 minutes remaining, a Springbok avalanche threatened, but it never came as the Pumas dug deep and held out, and in fact had the final say when flank Pablo Matera crawled over in the 86th minute.
South Africa: 29 – Tries: Makazole Mapimpi, Malcolm Marx. Conversions: Handré Pollard (2). Penalties: Pollard (5).
Argentina: 10 – Try: Pablo Matera. Conversion: Nicolas Sanchez. Penalty: Domingo Miotti