Pumas get a moral victory
Argentina scored a huge moral victory by claiming their first Rugby Championship points in a historic 16-all draw with South Africa.
Argentina scored a huge moral victory by claiming their first Rugby Championship points in a historic 16-all draw with South Africa at Estadio Malvinas Argentinas, in Mendoza, on Saturday.
The Pumas made history. It was not as much history as they would have liked and certainly not as much as they deserved. But for the first time in a Test match they did not lose to the Springboks, but it could have been so much better.
The Springboks did not once have the lead in this match while the Pumas led for 53 minutes and then when they lost the lead it was an individual mistake rather than a team mistake.
Their enthusiasm for the game and the crowd's enthusiasm for the game were wonderful and a week after heavy defeat they were back in the game and back as the better side.
For the Springboks, the wheels came off the oxwagon. It really was a grim performance.
They were beaten at the tackle for one thing, their kicking was not nearly as good and their handling was not as good. But it was in concentrated determination that the Pumas surpassed them so that for the majority of the match the Springboks looked either puzzled or rattled.
They picked three loose forwards to charge. They hardly ever charged and when they did each one of them lost the ball. They were not as good as Argentina at any aspect of the game, except on the scoreboard.
Skilful, creative play is not a Springboks weapon. Kicking is and charging is. Their kicking was meaningless - not as recoverable as the Argentinian kicking was, and they missed four penalty kicks at goal, two by each Steyn.
Go back in South Africa's rugby history and look for a worse Springbok performance in a Test match. Yet we are led to believe that this is a team of stars, well prepared with a blossoming gameplan.
It was such a special occasion in such a special place in front of a special crowd. Maybe it was all too much for the Springboks who certainly were not special. And it left the Pumas disappointed as Juan Fernandez Lobbe, their captain, said afterwards. They knew they should have won.
The field (shorter and narrower than normal) was firm and green on a cold winter's afternoon with snow on the nearby Andes. There were fireworks and anthems, a military band and a line of drummers. It was all so well organised - this first match of the Rugby Championship in Argentina. One hopes that it gave them hope for what is to come.
Both sides missed early penalty kicks at goal before the Pumas turned a penalty into a five-metre line-out, only to lose the line-out. Then Jannie du Plessis was penalised and Martín Rodríguez goaled - 3-0 after 11 minutes.
South Africa attacked but Andries Bekker knocked on and the Pumas went onto the attack. They ran fast and directly, Sturdy hooker Eusebio Guiñazu broke past Tendai Mtawarira and then a groping Bekker. This set up an attacking tackle at which prop Juan Figallo popped a little pass to centre Santiago Fernández who darted untouched for a try under the posts - 10-0 after 17 minutes. This was Argentina's first try in the Rugby Championship which they have just joined.
How they noisy crowd loved it. They sang and they cheered. They cheered every tackle, and their side responded with zeal while the Springboks looked scattered and scruffy.
But when Figallo was penalised for obstruction, Morné Steyn goaled - 10-3 after 32 minutes, but three minutes later the Springboks were penalised at a maul and Rodríguez made the half-time score 13-3.
There was the strangest bit of rugby early in the second half. The Springboks had an overlap of four players on the right and François Steyn opted to throw a long, looping skip pass to Bekker on the wing. The overlap ended.
When aged Rodrigo Roncero was penalised at a tackle, Morné Steyn goaled - 13-6 after 48 minutes. Three minutes later Flip van der Merwe came onto the field as a substitute for Bekker. He went straight to a line-out, tackled Juan Martín Fernández Lobbe in the air and was penalised. Rodríguez made it 16-6.
Three minutes after this Patricio Albacete, who had a great game, was penalised at a tackle and Morné Steyn made it 16-9. There were still 26 minutes to play.
Willem Alberts grabbed the ball at an Argentinian throw into a line-out and charged to set up am a promising Springbok attack but five metres from the Puma line, Albacete won a turnover off Potgieter and Argentina cleared.
Martín Landajo came on at scrumhalf and had a good break which the Springboks just survived. The Pumas had a good maul and Fernández missed a drop.
There was some kicking to each other and Lucas González Amorosino, alone at the back, kicked to clear but François Steyn charged the kick down. It bounced to the goal-line where Steyn, all on his own, gathered the ball to score the try. Morné Steyn converted - 16-all after 64 minutes, the final score.
With seven minutes to go Morné Steyn kicked a penalty from an acute angle but was well wide. Right at the end, after the final siren, the Springboks attacked but well inside the Puma 22 Jean de Villiers was tackled, Juan Imhoff won a turnover and Landajo was glad to make history with the draw.
Man of the Match: You have a choice of two forwards - lock Patricio Albacete or our choice, the should of the team, the man whose eyes had the most determined intent, the captain - Juan Martín Fernández Lobbe.
Moment of the Match: Santiago Fernandez's try.
Villain of the Match: Nobody at all.
Pens: Rodríguez 3
For South Africa:
Try: F Steyn
Con: M Steyn
Pens: M Steyn 3
Argentina: 15 Martín Rodríguez, 14 Gonzalo Camacho, 13 Marcelo Bosch, 12 Santiago Fernández, 11 Horacio Agulla, 10 Nicolás Sánchez, 9 Nicolas Vergallo, 8 Juan Martín Fernández Lobbe, 7 Álvaro Galindo, 6 Julio Farias Cabello, 5 Patricio Albacete, 4 Manuel Carizza, 3 Juan Figallo, 2 Eusebio Guiñazu, 1 Rodrigo Roncero.
Replacements: 16 Bruno Postiglioni, 17 Marcos Ayerza, 18 Leonardo Senatore, 19 Tomás Leonardi, 20 Martín Landajo, 21 Lucas González Amorosino, 22 Juan Imhoff.
South Africa: 15 Zane Kirchner, 14 Bryan Habana, 13 Jean de Villiers (captain), 12 Frans Steyn, 11 Lwazi Mvovo, 10 Morné Steyn, 9 François Hougaard, 8 Willem Alberts, 7 Jacques Potgieter, 6 Marcell Coetzee, 5 Andries Bekker, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Adriaan Strauss, 1 Tendai Mtawarira.
Replacements: 16 Tiaan Liebenberg, 17 Pat Cilliers, 18 Flip van der Merwe, 19 Keegan Daniel, 20 Ruan Pienaar, 21 Pat Lambie, 22 JJ Engelbrecht.
Referee: Steve Walsh (Australia)
Assistant referees: Jérôme Garces (France), John Lacey (Ireland)
TMO: Francisco Pastrana (Argentina)