The Springboks’ ability to up the intensity and improve their execution during the latter stages of Saturday’s Test against Argentina enabled them to salvage a fortuitous 30-23 win, writes CRAIG LEWIS in Nelspruit.
The Boks were staring at another embarrassing defeat when they fell 10 points behind with less than 15 minutes to play, but an insatiable surge in the latter stages saw them score 17 unanswered points.
However, it shouldn’t gloss over another performance that was riddled with far too many errors. On the day, the Boks made 11 handling errors, conceded nine penalties and failed to look after the ball at the breakdown.
At half-time, Argentina had enjoyed the better of territory and possession, and they retained the ascendancy in those key areas going into the final quarter.
However, the threat of a second defeat to Argentina at home in the space of a single year sparked them into life, with a well-worked set move first seeing Johan Goosen put away for a beautiful try, while superb handling then enabled Warren Whiteley to score the match-winner.
In the end, Argentina edged the Boks in almost all the attacking stats, making eight clean breaks to four, completing 97 carries to 76, running 404m to 371 and executing 13 offloads to four.
Ultimately, it was only intense fighting spirit and a belated appreciation for possession, married with better execution and sheer desperation, that allowed the Boks to clinch a result that looked unlikely to materialise for most of the encounter.
In the opening half, the Boks displayed a fair amount of attacking intent, but again their execution and decision-making let them down at key moments.
It was a particular indictment that during a 10-minute period when the Pumas were reduced to 14 men after Manuel Montero was sent to the sin bin midway through the first half, they failed to score any points, while the visitors scored 10 of their own.
Again, the Boks were guilty of failing to sustain a strong start, with Argentina growing in confidence as they reduced the encounter into a dogfight, and ultimately finished the opening half with 53% of possession and territory.
Although Argentina conceded seven penalties in the first half (one more than the Boks), Elton Jantjies was guilty of missing two goal-kicks, while one attempt from Goosen also went wide.
At half-time, very little separated the sides in several key statistical areas, but it was notable that Argentina executed nine offloads to just the two from the Boks.
Ultimately, the visitors looked set to secure what would have been a quite deserved victory, but the Boks finally found their rhythm when it mattered most.
Photo: AFP Photo