Pumas coach Mario Ledesma says the Springbok forwards were dominant at Kings Park and will be hard to stop in Mendoza next week. JON CARDINELLI reports from Durban.
The Boks scored six tries in their 34-21 win over Argentina on Saturday to begin their Rugby Championship in the best possible fashion. While they made several errors at the lineout, their work at the scrums, breakdowns and collisions forced the Pumas on to the back foot.
After the game, Ledesma admitted that his side was outplayed in these key areas. Asked if the Pumas could turn things around before the Test against the Boks in Mendoza next week, the former front ranker gave the media a surprising response.
‘How do you stop them? I don’t know. Maybe they will get sick or something [before the game next week],’ the Pumas coach said.
‘They are the most physical team in the world by far. We knew that coming into this game. They kept playing direct footie. We stood up, but it was like a dam wall. They kept hammering away and something had to give.
‘They built up momentum, and I stopped counting their tries [after a while]. We will have to address our problems at the set pieces and rucks, because we know they have world-class players like Francois Louw, Siya Kolisi and Malcolm Marx.’
Opposite number Rassie Erasmus refused to get carried away in the wake of the bonus-point victory. The Boks trailed 14-10 at half-time, and it took a change in tactics for the hosts to hit back.
‘We played some really good rugby in the 25 minutes after half-time,’ Erasmus said. ‘That was probably the only time when we were on top.
‘I was worried coming into this match. There were a few players coming back from injury [Marx, Eben Etzebeth and Warren Whiteley made their first Test appearances of the season] and there is always going to be a period of transition when you are fielding a new loose trio.
‘We got dragged into a slower game [in the first half]. I felt that Siya and the guys fixed that in the second period.’
Erasmus admitted there was much to work on in the buildup to the next game in Mendoza. The Bok lineout failed to function in the first half, while flyhalf Handré Pollard missed five shots on goal.
‘Pieter-Steph du Toit hadn’t played No 5 for a while before this game, and it was Malcolm’s first game back [with the Boks].
‘It was terrible the way we got into their 22 five times and then lost possession at that set piece. There were a lot of technical errors, and we have to address that.
‘I’d be lying if I said those misses by Handré aren’t a concern. But I’m sure he will bounce back.’
The All Blacks claimed a bonus-point win over the Wallabies earlier on Saturday. New Zealand and South Africa both have five log points after the first round of the Rugby Championship.
Erasmus feels that the game in Mendoza will be a lot closer, though.
‘We got five log points out of this game, and it will be great if we can scrape through next week and remain in the [title] mix.
‘Argentina will be desperate to turn things around but we will be just as desperate to get the win.’
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