Wiese at full steam as Boks depth charge Pumas

Jasper Wiese delivered his most convincing performance for South Africa as a fleet of second-stringers sank Argentina at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium on Saturday.

The hard-charging No 8 was in the vanguard as the Springboks kicked off the Rugby Championship title with a convincing win against the Pumas.

While some may claim the 32-12 result is evidence Argentina weren’t up to the task, there is reason to believe the world champions are primed to achieve rare dominance over their Southern Hemisphere rivals this season.

In November last year, the Pumas clinched a historic 25-15 win against the All Blacks in Sydney. It was no fluke achieved against an understrength Kiwi outfit as the likes of Richie Mo’unga, Beauden Barrett, Aaron Smith, Sam Cane and Sam Whitelock helped perform the haka.

No less than 11 of the players who started for the Pumas in that match were on the pitch on Saturday to receive the opening kick-off, including the world-class talent of flyhalf Nicolas Sanchez, flanker Pablo Matera and captain Julian Montoya in the middle of the front row.

Fresh off a series victory against the British & Irish Lions, the Boks deployed a squad that featured 12 changes, including 10 to the run-on team.

There was every reason to expect a revamped line-up would, at best, be slow out of the blocks and worst-case predictions had South Africa resting the stalwarts for a tough away leg of the championship at the cost of surrendering the opener.

Instead, several players shrugged off the easy excuses to answer the call as the Boks held Argentina to their lowest tally of points in six years.

Making just his fourth Test appearance, Wiese cut the error-rate that had dogged him throughout the Lions series to give credence to his reputation as a serious gain-line guardian.

The 25-year-old Leicester Tigers loosie made metres on almost every carry during the first three quarters of the match, providing momentum that gave Bok tacticians the time and space required to steer the attack and counter the Pumas kicking game.

In this regard, halfbacks Cobus Reinach and Elton Jantjies were on point, depowering Argentina’s defence with a salvo of kicks that were successfully contested by the likes of Eben Etzebeth and Sbu Nkosi.

And Hall of Fame San Francisco 49ers southpaw Steve Young would stand and applaud the flat, cross-field laser from Jantjies that Aphelele Fassi collected to score.

The teams will reconvene at the same venue this week for a rematch before a three-week ceasefire tees up a run of four matches against Australia and New Zealand between 12 September and 2 October during a long tour of Australasia.

The Boks will be eager to clean up an attacking breakdown that sputtered at times under pressure from the likes of Montoya and Matera, and they’ll also spend some time clarifying the options around receiving grass-finders that bisect the backfield.

However, in this impressive victory against Argentina the Boks revealed a next-man-up mentality and depth that will terrify their Antipodean rivals.

The world champions expect to be reinforced by Wiese’s mentor Duane Vermeulen in the coming weeks at a time where the Wallabies pack only has 50 minutes of ammunition and the All Blacks are still searching for Richie McCaw, Jerome Kaino and Kieran Read’s replacements.

South Africa’s depth will keep the stalwarts at their sharpest and reduce the potential impact of injuries to key players on a tour that presents the 2021 Boks with the rare opportunity of matching the legendary class of 2009 by adding the southern hemisphere crown to a world championship and Lions scalp.

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Craig Lewis