Boks escape humiliation
REPORT: The Springboks scored 17 points in the final 10 minutes to secure a shameful 30-23 victory over a determined Argentina in Nelspruit.
It was a seesaw match but too error-ridden to get really excited about and the crowd were making their own fun with a noisy Mexican wave and loud singing of Olé even though the Springboks were behind. That all changed with the arrival of the last 10 minutes and the sort of rugby that South African rugby fans long for from their team - and in the process they won the match. The people were happy in a relieved sort of way.
For the two teams it meant that a great trek would start on Sunday - a four-hour drive to Johannesburg, overnight in the Airport Hotel and then the flight to Buenos Aires and preparation for their next match, which is next Saturday in Salta with its colonial architecture and the Andes next door.
Fortunately there seemed no animosity on the field to be carried on next week and enough in this match to suggest that either team can win.
The mistakes? Handling above all. Many penalties - 12 against Argentina to nine against South Africa. Of the penalties only four were not tackle-related, Secondly, did a South African wing ever get a pass from a South African centre? It used to be a centre's primary duty to get his wings into the best possible position. And there was wayward kicking.
It is also true that South Africa's missed points in the first half that could, if they had been taken, have meant a far more confident Springbok team. They missed three penalty kicks at goal and Lionel Mapoe, for no good reason, lost the ball over the goal line next to the posts. 16 points in all.
South Africa scrummed well, twice destroying the famed Puma scrum, earning two penalties to one conceded. There were 11 line-outs, each team losing one.
After the warrior (Zulu?) had done his aggressive thing, Agustín Creevy had been honoured for playing his 50th test, there was silence to honour the passing of Makhenkesi Arnold Stofile and magnificent rendering of the anthems, Juan Martín Hernández kicked off and the Springboks showed their hand by running deep in their own territory. At the first scrum the Pumas were penalised and from the line-out the Springboks ran, Pablo Matera grabbed Faf de Klerk when the scrumhalf with the ready smile was waiting for the ball. Elton Jantjies missed the kick by some margin but made up for it with a telling break going right. He was tackled and Francois Louw was on hand to pass to Lood de Jager going blind. Johan Goosen caught the high pass and gave a perfect pass to Ruan Combrink who got over in the right corner as three Pumas tried to stop him. Jantjies converted from touch. 7-0 after 8 minutes.
From a scrum the Pumas attacked. Louw was penalised and the Pumas mauled from the line-out. They had a free kick at a scrum and attacked some more. Louw was penalised and Nicolás Sánchez goaled. 7-3 after 15 minutes.
South Africa kicked off long and chased. Creevy was penalised and Jantjies goaled. 10-3 after 17 minutes.
Pablo Matera was penalised for a tip tackle on Damian de Allende and sent to the sin bin. While he was away the Pumas scored 10 points and were leading 13-10 when he returned, the half-time score.
First Sánchez kicked a penalty goal when Lionel Mapoe was offside at a breakdown, the ball going over off the upright and the crossbar. The Pumas scored again from the kick-off. Martín Landajo went blind down the left from a breakdown and gave to strong Facundo Isa who beat Adriaan Strauss and then Louw till Oupa Mahoje felled him. The Pumas went wide right where any of three players could have scored the try which Matías Orlando scored, and with the conversion the Pumas led 13-10 after 26 minutes.
The Springboks launched a swift attack down the left and Bryan Habana was hauled down just short. He aimed to pass it back to Eben Etzebeth who was intent on cleaning out and knocked on.
At this stage debutant Julian Redelinghuys went off with what looked like a hamstring injury, replaced by Vincent Koch.
The Pumas put the ball into a scrum and the Springboks destroyed their scrum, earning a penalty which they kicked out for a five-metre line-out. They mauled but the Pumas held them back. They went right and Mapoe was over only to lose the ball - forward apparently - as he sought to ground it with both hands.
When Montero was offside, Jantjies's kick at goal hit an upright and stayed out.
Early in the second half Habana was sent to the sin bin when he chased a high kick and slipped close to Santiago Cordero who was jumping for the ball. Habana made contact with Cordero's legs and the Puma wing came tumbling down.
The Pumas attacked from an attacking line-out but the Springboks won a turnover and De Klerk passed back to Jantjies. Jantjies's kick hit Strauss in the face and rebounded over the dead-ball line, giving the Pumas a five-metre scrum. Isa charged for the line but again the Springboks won a turnover and from behind their own line Mapoe and De Allende broke out and when their splendid effort ended they were near the Pumas 22, where they won a Puma line-out.
Creevy was again penalised at a tackle and Jantjies levelled the scores at 13-13 with 25 minutes to play.
Changes were happening to both teams. One of those who came on was scrumhalf Tomás Cubelli whose head was shaven in sympathy with his flyhalf partner at the Brumbies, Christian Leali'ifano, who is undergoing treatment for cancer.
When Jaco Kriel was penalised at a tackle, Sánchez missed the kick but when Pieter-Steph du Toit was penalised, he goaled and the Pumas were back in front 16-13 with 16 minutes to play.
Jantjies kicked and Montero started a counterattack on the left. He looked about to score when Etzebeth felled him. The Pumas went through phases till Sánchez tapped a delicate kick over the Springboks defence and either Hernández or Cordero could have scored. Cordero was there first to grab the ball and score well in from touch. 23-13 to Argentina with 12 minutes to play.
Time raced on but the Springboks were attacking. They had a scrum some 15 metres in from touch on their right. De Klerk went wide at speed and at the last minute worked a scissors with Goosen who went over for the try untouched. Now the Pumas led only 23-20 but there were only nine shrinking minutes left. But the Springboks came back on the attack and Jantjies goaled an easy penalty to make the score 23-all with 8 minutes to play. It was a tense time for everybody, except it seemed, De Klerk who still had time to smile and hoist two excellent box kicks downfield.
The Pumas were penalised at a maul and Combrinck kicked for a line-out on the Springboks' left with 4 minutes to play. Du Toit won the line-out and Juan de Jongh charged ahead. From the breakdown Kriel force his staggering way across the field. This time when the ball came back to De Klerk he went left with a long pass to Etzebeth. The lock gave to Habana who beat Cordero on the inside and then passed to Whiteley near the left touch line. Whiteley came inside Cubelli and scored in the left corner. Again Jantjies converted from touch.
There were seven seconds left for play and the final siren sounded with the kick-off. Whiteley caught the ball and sought to kick it the 16 metres into touch. But his excited kick was appalling and went wobbling back towards the Springbok line. Whiteley went back and caught it. He ran for the touchline and grounded it over the line as if he were scoring a try.
In Salta it will be anybody's game. Expect rumbling near the Andes.
Man of the Match: Of the Pumas Facundo Isa was certainly outstanding throughout and so was Nicolás Sánchez. But our Man of the Match, not because he was born in Nelspruit, not that his passing was impeccable, but because he had most effect of any player on the result of the game - the irrepressible Faf de Klerk.
Moment of the Match: All five tries were special - Johan Goosen to determined Ruan Combrinck; Matías Orlando's try after Facundo Isa's run, Oupa Mahoje's tackle and then going right with an overlap of three; Nicolás Sánchez's delicious chip for Santiago Cordero's try; that exquisitely timed scissors that ended with Johan Goosen's try; and then the try that won the match. We would say it was the decisive try that won the match.
Villain of the Match: Nobody. Even the yellow cards lacked malice.
For South Africa:
Tries: Combrinck, Goosen, Whiteley
Cons: Jantjies 3
Pens: Jantjies 3
Tries: Orlando, Cordero
Cons: Sanchez 2
Pens: Sanchez 3
Yellow cards: Manuel Montero (Argentina, dangerous play - tip tackle, 22), Bryan Habana (South Africa, dangerous play - playing the man in the air, 46)
South Africa: 15 Johan Goosen, 14 Ruan Combrinck, 13 Lionel Mapoe, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Faf de Klerk, 8 Warren Whiteley, 7 Oupa Mohoje, 6 Francois Louw, 5 Lood de Jager, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Julian Redelinghuys, 2 Adriaan Strauss (captain), 1 Tendai Mtawarira.
Replacements: 16 Bongi Mbonambi, 17 Steven Kitshoff, 18 Vincent Koch, 19 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 20 Jaco Kriel, 21 Rudy Paige, 22 Juan de Jongh, 23 Jesse Kriel.
Argentina: 15 Joaquín Tuculet, 14 Santiago Cordero, 13 Matías Orlando, 12 Juan Martín Hernández, 11 Manuel Montero, 10 Nicolás Sánchez, 9 Martín Landajo, 8 Facundo Isa, 7 Juan Manuel Leguizamón, 6 Pablo Matera, 5 Tomás Lavanini, 4 Matías Alemanno, 3 Ramiro Herrera, 2 Agustín Creevy (captain), 1 Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro.
Replacements: 16 Julián Montoya, 17 Felipe Arregui, 18 Enrique Pieretto, 19 Guido Petti, 20 Javier Ortega Desio, 21 Tomás Cubelli, 22 Santiago Gonzalez Iglesias, 23 Ramiro Moyano.
Referee: Glen Jackson (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Jérôme Garcès (France), Ben O'Keeffe (New Zealand)
TMO: Glenn Newman (New Zealand)