Los Pumas hang on for historic win
REPORT: Argentina toiled hard for most of the 80 minutes to claim an historic 26-24 victory over South Africa in Salta, despite the visitors' launching a late second half comeback.
Argentina thoroughly deserved this win, historic or other wise, two points or not.
They deserved it because they played better rugby. Any hope that the Springboks would have developed after Nelspruit was indeed an idle hope. In fact any hope that they have improved since Ireland at Newlands is an idle hope. There is no sign that they have improved in five Tests, not even that they have established a recognisable pattern of play.
The Pumas are a developing side and they have a recognisable way of playing. For one thing they run straight and handle well, and they don't mind where they start their running. They were both more daring and more efficient than the Springboks.
For another thing, in this test they did not miss a single kick at goal. South Africa missed a conversion, three penalties and a drop goal from slap in front.
And for yet another thing, Springbok intensity seems to fade rapidly into ordinariness. They started off the first half and again the second half with great intensity, but they could not sustain it for long.
The first half belonged to Argentina. They had by far the most possession in the half. They scored a try and were desperately close with two others. South Africa was not close to scoring a try.
Argentina lost prop Ramiro Herrera to the sin bin and in his absence the Pumas scored six points - 6-0.
The Pumas came within an ace of scoring in a strange situation. After Elton Jantjies was off target with a penalty kick, Jan Martín Hernández, in his own half, kicked a long way downfield. Johan Goosen encouraged the ball to roll into his in-goal and helped it to go dead in the hope of getting a scrum where Hernández had kicked the ball. But apparently in attempting to charge down the kick, Jantjies had touched the ball and so it became a scrum, all right, but to the Pumas five metres from the Springbok line. From the scrum the Pumas went wide right and Manuel Montero was over the line to ground the ball as Lionel Mapoe tackled him, but he lost it forward out of his left hand.
Instead the Springboks scored when Herrera was penalised and sin-binned for a late, armless tackle. Off he went and Jantjies goaled. 3-0 after 21 minutes.
From the kick-off, Damian de Allende ran acrossfield, was tackled and penalised. Nicolás Sánchez goaled. 3-3 after 22 minutes.
The Pumas were free kicked at a scrum and Jantjies kicked an up-and-under and the Pumas, from deep inside their own territory, counterattacked, running all sorts of excellent lines till Matías Orlando raced for the line down the left touchline. Eben Etzebeth pushed him and the Puma stumbled into touch at the cornerflag - their second lost chance to score a try.
Vincent Koch was penalised at a tackle, and again Sánchez goaled. 6-3 to the Pumas after 29 minutes.
The Springboks kicked off deep into the Pumas' 22. The Pumas started running and they had the Springboks stumbling about in confusion as their opponents went far right and Hernández chipped. Martín Landajo got the ball and the Pumas went far left with Montero racing down the left touchline. Challenged he passed inside to fullback Joaquín Tuculet who scored in Ruan Combrinck's tackle. 13-3 after 31 minutes and Combrinck went off with a leg injury to be replaced by Jesse Kriel.
South Africa built phases for the first time but Jantjies kicked directly into touch.
Montero had an overlap - apparently an easy thing to do against the Springboks - and then chipped into in-goal where Habana saved.
At half-time the Pumas led 13-3.
It took the Springboks just five minutes into the second half to get on equal terms at 13-all. First Jantjies goaled a penalty when Juan Manuel Leguizamón was penalised at tackle. Then the Springboks had their second bout of phases and went wide left where Etzebeth gave a pass to Francois Louw who passed the ball to Habana. He passed to Habana but that does nothing to describe his exquisite, perfectly executed underarm pass as he was being tackled. This gave Habana a clear 25-metre run to the line. Johan Goosen converted.
Sánchez left the field with a facial injury when he attempted to tackle Etzebeth high and Hernández moved to flyhalf.
At this stage already the Springboks started making changes as Pieter-Steph du Toit came on for Lood de Jager, Lourens Adriaanse for Koch and Steven Kitshoff for Tendai Mtawarira.
From a scrum, the Pumas went wide left. The ball came back from a tackle to Hernández who lofted a diagonal to the right where Leguizamón beat Habana to the ball and plunged over for a try. The Pumas led 20-13 after 48 minutes.
Morné Steyn replaced Jantjies, who it seemed had a groin injury, and missed a penalty kick at goal when the Pumas were penalised at a scrum.
The Springboks were penalised and Landajo tapped and gave to Facundo Isa. The powerful No.8 burst between two Springboks and strode down the field. Etzebeth was penalised for an early tackle on Guido Petti and Hernández goaled. 23-13 after 54 minutes.
First Landajo and then Habana had promising breaks which brought no change to the score.
Agustín Creevy went off the field waving to the applauding crowd as he went, such was the Salta confidence in a Puma victory.
Jesse Kriel had a break on the right and the ball went to De Allende who looked sure to score but lost the ball at the line.
Steyn kicked a penalty. 23-16 after 64 minutes.
The Springboks won a turnover and attacked but Mapoe grubbered into touch.
Hernández and Oupa Mahoje clashed heads and Hernández was taken off on a stretcher.
From the line-out after Hernández was taken off, the Springboks went wide right to Jesse Kriel. He was stopped but the Springboks nudged their way left till Du Toit with great strength forced his way over for a try. Steyn missed the conversion. 23-21 to the Pumas with 12 minutes to play.
Four minutes later the Pumas were penalised and then moved on 10 metres. Steyn goaled and, after 50 minutes, the Springboks led again - 24-23 with 8 minutes to play.
Just after this Steyn missed what looked like a comfortable drop at goal, but then Jaco Kriel tackled Lucas Amorosino without the ball and Santiago Iglesias goaled from in front of the posts. 26-24 to the Pumas with three minutes to play.
The Pumas had a scrum, the siren went, Tomás Cubelli put the ball in, the Pumas heeled and Cubelli kicked the ball dead. the final whistle was a signal for much glee, hugging kissing and running about.
Man of the Match: There are several candidates, all of them Argentinian. You could go from smooth Joaquín Tuculet to annoying Martín Landajo, from powerful Facundo Isa to ardent Agustín Creevy, and it's not easy to pick one because it was so much a team effort. They were a team, played as a team and in the end rejoiced as a team. That united team is our Man of the Match.
Moment of the Match: Joaquín Tuculet's try and its build-up over 85 metres.
Villain of the Match: Nobody. It was an honourable match, one in which twice players helped opponents up off the ground.
Tries: Tuculet, Leguizamón
Cons: Sánchez 2
Pens: Sánchez 2, Hernández, Iglesias
For South Africa:
Tries: Habana, Du Toit
Pens: Jantjies 2, Steyn 2
Yellow card: Ramiro Herrera (Argentina, foul play - late tackle, 20)
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 (c), 1 Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro
Replacements: 16 Julian Montoya, 17 Felipe Arregui, 18 Enrique Pieretto, 19 Guido Petti, 20 Javier Ortega Desio, 21 Tomas Cubelli, 22 Santiago González Iglesias, 23 Lucas González Amorosino
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 Vincent Koch, 2 Adriaan Strauss (captain), 1 Tendai Mtawarira.
Replacements: 16 Bongi Mbonambi, 17 Steven Kitshoff, 18 Lourens Adriaanse, 19 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 20 Jaco Kriel, 21 Rudy Paige, 22 Morné Steyn, 23 Jesse Kriel.
Venue: Estádio Padre Ernesto Martearena, Salta
Referee: Jérôme Garcès (France)
Assistant referees: Glen Jackson (New Zealand), Ben O'Keeffe (New Zealand)
Television match official: Glenn Newman (New Zealand)