The Springboks believe they gained a great deal from the rain-afflicted battle at Loftus despite missing out on the bonus point, reports JON CARDINELLI in Pretoria.
The Boks had targeted this fixture against Argentina as a potential five log points. Coach Heyneke Meyer picked a match 23 specifically for that task. It was hoped that the powerful forwards and bruising backs would destroy Argentina, if not from the outset, then in the latter stages when altitude began to take effect.
Following the result in the other Rugby Championship fixture on Saturday, the Boks may have felt that luck was with them. The Wallabies held the All Blacks to a 12-12 draw in Sydney. If the Boks could win and secure a bonus point in Pretoria, they would take a commanding lead at the top of the Rugby Championship log. They had a great opportunity.
But then it rained. It had been bone dry from Monday to Friday, and there was only 40% rain forecast for Saturday. But rain it did.
It started 10 minutes before kick-off, and abated towards the end of the second half. And yet, that short and intense barrage destroyed the game in the sense that neither team was able to build a sustained attack, or indeed string more than two passes together.
Meyer and his captain Jean de Villiers were all rye smiles and humourless laughs at the post-match press conference. Meyer believed the Boks really had a chance of realising their four-try objective coming into this game, as did De Villiers.
After the ground was hit by torrential rain in the first half of Saturday’s Test, however, four tries were always going to be a tough ask.
‘Those were the worst conditions I’ve ever experienced in my career,’ said De Villiers.
Last November, the Boks thumped Scotland 28-0 at Murrayfield in wet conditions. But, as De Villiers confirmed, the conditions experienced at Loftus this past Saturday were very different.
‘We couldn’t play the brand we wanted to, we couldn’t play at all,’ he said.
Meyer said there were positives to come out of the game. The weather was a leveller, and the Bok coach felt the hosts did well to guts it out for a win.
‘We showed character. We had a 20-year-old playing flyhalf and a 21-year-old calling the lineouts. Lood de Jager and the guys did well considering we had also lost Willem Alberts [to a hamstring injury] before the game,’ he said.
‘In general, I felt the youngsters did very well, and we need to be able to prevail in these conditions if we are going to be effective at the World Cup [in England next year]. They will be better for that experience.
‘I was surprised by how bad it was,’ Meyer added. ‘We knew it might rain, but not like this. The game is not even an arm-wrestle in these conditions. It can go either way, so I’m glad we held on.
'A draw would have been a setback in terms of our Rugby Championship campaign. So we will take the win and move forward from here.’
The Boks will only arrive in Argentina on Monday. The short turnaround between their arrival and the game in Salta next Saturday means that their training time will be limited. They won’t have a great opportunity to sharpen their set piece and breakdown play.
The good news is that the weather in Salta should be a lot drier that what was experienced at Loftus this past Saturday.
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