Argentina scored their first Castle Rugby Championship log points when they held South Africa to a 16-16 draw in Mendoza on Saturday
After forty minutes of brilliant rugby in the first half the Puma’s ran out of steam in the second half and that a lesson we must correct and learn from.
Its not the first man off the starting block, rather the first man over the finishing line. Having said that the forwards played on with their hearts when the fuel tanks were running low.Things can certainly change in a week. South Africa opened the Castle Rugby Championship trying to go for a bonus point in Cape Town whilst in Mendoza, against the same Argentine opposition, they were lucky to escape with a 16-all draw.
Argentina came of age at the Malvinas Argentinas Stadium thanks to a Springbok team that seemed flat and unable to find holes in an asphyxiating defence that only allowed them a soft try in the 65th minute, when Frans Steyn chased a long kick and managed to charge down the response.
With the All Blacks a clear winner against Australia in the first two rounds of the tournament, it is now to Australia that the Springboks travel in search of some form of redemption.
The opening ten minutes saw two sides intent on running straight at each other with neither taking much advantage.
The promised physicality that both teams had talked about during the week was evident as it seemed they were intent on proving a point with their bravado.
In that opening period, both teams failed to convert penalties into points before Argentina managed to get a 47-metre penalty through Martín Rodríguez’s boot.
After South Africa finally spun the ball wide on a couple of occasions only to be stopped by the Puma defence, the home side went on the attack, with former Western Province hooker Eusebio Guiñazú breaking Marcel Coetzee’s tackle.
That gave the team momentum; after a couple of phases, centre Fernández picked up from the back of a ruck to run straight under the posts, for the Springboks to give Los Pumas a 10-0 advantage in the 17th minute.
Despite selecting a ball-carrying back row, the Springboks did not find a way around the Puma defence.
Two tacklers were on the ball-carrier all the time and whenever they tried to attack through the middle, they were stopped efficiently.
Whenever Francois Hougaard moved the ball to the backs, the spaces appeared, but neither Lwazi Mvovo nor Bryan Habana was able to make a real dent in the Puma defence.
Argentina gave away two naïve penalties, the first of which Morné Steyn missed, but he broke the duck with the second. Despite this, Argentina within two minutes had again stretched the lead to ten points.
South Africa’s best attacking moment came two minutes before the end of the first half, when eight phases went unrewarded after Marcel Coetzee knocked on in a double tackle.
Stern words from coach Heyneke Meyer at the break seemed to reach the Springboks, who within five minutes had again twice tried with penalties – Frans Steyn missing from a distance and Morné getting his second.
But within three minutes, Argentina replied after an indiscretion that the attentive Steve Walsh penalised. The referee was certainly more active at the start of the second half, dishing out penalties by the handful.
As Rodríguez had added his third penalty, Morné Steyn followed him within a minute.
LACK OF PENETRATION
The lack of Springbok penetration was as evident as the nuggety Pumas’ defence closed their path to the in-goal. Whenever a ball-carrier tried to advance, the defence closed on them.
Captain Jean de Villiers tried twice, but to no avail. And even if Francois Hougaard tried in his last few moments as a scrumhalf to generate momentum, it was with no real consequence.
Argentina dominated the close quarters, pushing the Springboks at their own game, but from an inconsequential kick from deep in their own field, Frans Steyn showed all his experience to charge down Marcelo Bosch’s kick and ran unopposed to score the try which, with Morné Steyn’s conversion, drew the scores level in the 65th minute.
That was the only real try-scoring opportunity the Boks had, which at least, they took.
It will now have to be back to drawing board for Heyneke Meyer as his team showed a certain lack of teeth to beat the eighth-ranked team in the world and only a debutant at this level of rugby
Argentina – Try: Santiago Fernandez. Conversion: Martin Rodriguez. Penalties: Rodriguez (3).
South Africa – Try: Francois Steyn. Conversion: Morne Steyn. Penalties: M Steyn (3).