The Springboks continued their unbeaten run in the Rugby Championship as they overpowered Argentina to claim a 29-10 victory in Gqeberha on Saturday.
The victory edged the Springboks to the top of the Rugby Championship table amid still so many questions around the future of the 2021 season.
The Springboks were also able to equal their record unbeaten run in the competition, having last gone on a five-match winning run between 2008 and 2009.
Match flow: Unfortunately, the first half of the rematch between these two sides didn’t exactly have the fireworks that fans were hoping for. In truth, it was a penalty-ridden stop-start affair, as Argentina rode the line to stop the Springbok attack.
The Springboks got plenty of joy from both their kicking and won penalty after penalty at the driving maul. However, even though the hosts had the platform, their attack was rather limited against a well-organised Argentina defence.
Still, the Boks were happy to settle with dealing Argentina death by 1,000 cuts, as Handre Pollard slotted five penalties to give them a 15-3 lead at the break.
Argentina’s cynical approach, of course, did not help the momentum of the match. The visitors conceded 11 penalties in total in the first half, but it took the referee until the 30th minute to give them an official warning, before Rodrigo Bruni was eventually yellow-carded a few minutes later.
The Springboks found their breakthrough at the start of the second half as Cheslin Kolbe broke the line off a maul. After taking the ball through a few phases, Willie le Roux spotted the space and produced a magnificent pass to put Makazole Mapimpi in for the try.
The second try followed shortly afterwards as Cheslin Kolbe won a turnover penalty, Pollard found the corner with his penalty and after the subsequent driving maul Malcolm Marx scored.
Ringing the changes, the Springboks lost their momentum slightly in the second half and the game was reduced to a somewhat scrappy affair.
The Springboks had their opportunities to secure the bonus point, but four overthrows from lineouts in Argentina territory had them miss out on a full house. Instead, it was Argentina who had the final say as their best performer Pablo Matera forced his way over from short range.
Players who shone: Malcolm Marx was the Springboks’ outstanding player as he provided a timely reminder of his abilities as a starting hooker, having been used as a replacement in 2021. Marx gave Argentina a nightmare at the breakdown, threw accurately at the lineout and picked up a deserved try from a maul.
Willie le Roux also had a quietly solid game. His outstanding movement, creativity and execution was key to putting Makazole Mapimpi in for the Springboks’ second try.
Talking points: Bringing back their World Cup-winning backline, it was noticeable that the Springboks tried to vary their attack, especially in the second half.
There were small variations, such as Kolbe running an excellent line and getting a pass from Kolisi, or Pollard testing Argentina with a bomb in the 22, usually where the Springboks have previously refused to kick.
The stop-start nature of the Test had plenty to do with Argentina’s cynical approach. The visitors did not do themselves justice in this double-header in the Eastern Cape, given the outstanding talent in their squad. Overall, they gave away 17 penalties, which definitely hurt their chances of bouncing back from their first Test defeat.
Unfortunately, the win did come at a bit of a cost as both Trevor Nyakane and Jaden Hendrikse suffered injuries.