The Boks beat Argentina 26-12 in Buenos Aires to end their four-Test losing streak, JON CARDINELLI reports.
Intensity. Desperation. The Bok side that fronted on Saturday possessed what the mob of last week lacked.
This much was evident from the second minute when lock Eben Etzebeth scrambled back to make a try-saving, and ultimately game-shaping, tackle. Juan Imhoff, the hat-trick hero of last week, looked to be in for yet another try against the Boks, but fortunately for the visitors, Etzebeth got across to kill the movement.
From that moment, the visitors grew in confidence. The Boks battled for synergy at times, but never wanted for mongrel at the gainline. Etzebeth was one of the key protagonists in this respect, as was Willem Alberts in his first Test since June 2014.
Like the Boks, the Pumas went into this clash with a very different combination to the one that did duty in Durban last week. They suffered two late setbacks when loosehead prop Marcos Ayerza and centre Juan Martin Hernández withdrew before kick-off.
They looked a team that lacked motivation as well as energy. The Pumas played their big game, they made their big statement, when they smashed the Boks 37-25 at Kings Park last week. That victory marked their first-ever win against South Africa. As a result, they didn’t have the same edge and desire to win when hosting the Boks in Buenos Aires.
The Boks turned in a convincing set-piece performance on this occasion. The lineout benefited from Victor Matfield’s return to the starting side. The Boks persisted with their strategy to kick to touch early in the first half, and eventually breached the tryline when a multiphase move culminated in Bryan Habana’s 59th Test try.
Playing behind a dominant pack, Pat Lambie turned in an impressive performance. The flyhalf took good options in general play, and produced a five-from-five goal-kicking display to finish with a personal haul of 16 points.
Coach Heyneke Meyer gave a number of fringe players opportunities in this fixture, and a few certainly made the chance count. Lwazi Mvovo showed an intent to dominate the collision whenever in possession, and beat four defenders in the build-up to his try in the first half. Trevor Nyakane was busy, as were Schalk Brits and Pieter-Steph du Toit when they were introduced in the second stanza.
That said, the performance by the collective in the second half was far from clinical. The Boks scored six points in all during that period. They failed to punish Argentina after lock Tomas Lavini was sin-binned in the 63rd minute.
However, they continued to press forward in the final quarter, and maintained their intensity. They also kept the Pumas tryless.
The result is a much needed one for the Boks. It marks their first Test win of the calendar year, and ensures they go to next month’s World Cup with some momentum.
Argentina – Penalties: Nicolás Sánchez (4).
Springboks – Tries: Bryan Habana, Lwazi Mvovo. Conversions: Pat Lambie (2). Penalties: Lambie (3). Drop goal: Lambie.
Argentina – 15 Joaquín Tuculet, 14 Santiago Cordero, 13 Matías Moroni, 12 Juan Pablo Socino, 11 Juan Imhoff, 10 Nicolás Sánchez, 9 Martín Landajo, 8 Juan Manuel Legiuzamón, 7 Juan Martín Fernández Lobbe, 6 Tomás Lezana, 5 Tomás Lavanini, 4 Benjamin Macome, 3 Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro, 2 Agustín Creevy (c), 1 Lucas Noguera.
Subs: 16 Julián Montoya, 17 Santiago García Botta, 18 Juan Pablo Orlandi, 19 Matias Alemanno, 20 Pablo Matera, 21 Tomás Cubelli, 22 Santiago González Iglesias, 23 Lucas González Amorosino.
Springboks – 15 Zane Kirchner, 14 Lwazi Mvovo, 13 Jesse Kriel, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Pat Lambie, 9 Ruan Pienaar, 8 Schalk Burger, 7 Willem Alberts, 6 Heinrich Brüssow, 5 Victor Matfield (c), 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Marcel van der Merwe, 2 Adriaan Strauss, 1 Trevor Nyakane.
Subs: 16 Schalk Brits, 17 Beast Mtawarira, 18 Frans Malherbe, 19 Flip van der Merwe, 20 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 21, Cobus Reinach, 22 Handré Pollard, 23 Jan Serfontein.
Photo: Gabriel Rossi/Gallo Images