The Springboks were rusty at times, but they had enough in the tank to win their Rugby Championship game against Argentina in Gqeberha on Saturday.
DURBAN – The significance of this 32-12 Springbok demolition of Argentina cannot be underestimated and it confirms after the recent Lions series that Siya Kolisi’s men are indeed the real deal and have the depth and organisation to potentially dominate the world stage.
During the week, this match had ‘banana skin’ written all over given it took place just seven days after the physically and mentally exacting Lions finale. This necessitated 10 changes to the Bok starting line-up while the Pumas had picked their strongest side and were fresh from an ideal warm-up series against Wales.
Never before in the history of the 26-year-old Rugby Championship has a team had to play an opening-round match a week after having played a Test match, and certainly not straight after a seismic Lions series.
Incidentally, in 2009, the Boks had a month’s break from the third Lions Test before they played their first Tri-Nations match.
So the Boks would have been forgiven if they had stuttered at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium as a new combination found its feet against an opposition that boasted most of the players that beat the All Blacks a year ago.
Instead, the Boks hit the ground running and a gulf in class was soon apparent, notably upfront where the Pumas were heavily outgunned.
It was noteworthy to see the famed Argentine set scrum in reverse all evening, and in general the abrasive South African forwards ensured the Pumas played the game behind the advantage line.
The South Americans also could not deal with the precise aerial bombardment and almost every time the Boks hoisted the ball, some kind of advantage for them accrued.
The Bok halfback pairing of Elton Jantjies and Cobus Reinach enjoyed a fruitful evening, Jantjies kicking accurately for posts and Reinach displaying his delightful menace on the attack.
After Jantjies had settled his nerves with a difficult penalty after just three minutes, Reinach pounced on a spilled Pumas pass in his 22 and then hurtled down the touchline for a spectacular score, one that would have made his late father — a blisteringly fast Springbok wing in the ’80s — extremely proud.
The Boks’ second try, just minutes later, was also top drawer, this time a pin-point Jantjies kick-pass to the corner setting up Aphelele Fassi for a deft catch-and-finish in the corner.
The Boks led 21-9 at halftime, the Pumas points coming via the boot of Nicolas Sanchez, and after half time the hosts steam-rolled on, never allowing the Pumas to put together phases and crushing them at the breakdown.
Two minutes from the end, the Bok scoring was poignantly concluded when the oldest player on the field, Frans Steyn (34) gave a try-making pass to the youngest, 21-year-old Jaden Hendrikse, who on debut brilliantly scored in the corner.
South Africa (32) – Tries: Cobus Reinach, Aphelele Fassi, Jaden Hendrikse. Conversion: Elton Jantjies. Penalties: Elton Jantjies (5)
Argentina (12) – Penalties: Nicolas Sanchez (4).