Boks power past ill-disciplined Pumas
MATCH REPORT: The Springboks made it two wins from two matches in this year's Rugby Championship when they beat Argentina 41-23 in Salta on Saturday.
Argentina and South Africa met in the city of Salta for the third time, and South Africa won 41-23 on a sunny afternoon before an almost capacity crowd at the Padre Ernesto Martearena stadium.
This 41 points are the most scored by a team in six Tests played at the ground, a slightly smaller ground as it is essentially a soccer stadium.
This is South Africa's fifth successive Test win in 2017. That is one more than the four wins in 2016 while falling eight times to defeat, including one in Salta.
It was the Springboks' highest score in Argentina this century. And yet.....
There was a game in Dunedin and a game in Salta. They were called by the same name - rugby. They were played to the same laws - those of rugby football. In both matches the teams involved - New Zealand and Australia in Dunedin and Argentina and South Africa in Salta - were their countries' best teams involved in the same competition - SANZAAR's Rugby Championship. And yet....
This match in Salta compared unfavourably to the one in Dunedin. In Dunedin there was skill and speed; the match in Salta was pedestrian and error-ridden by comparison. Continuity was rare, handling brittle. And yet...
It also contained the try of the day. Argentina were at the Springboks' line, looking likely to bash over to score. One bash took them within centimetres of the goal-line where Malcolm Marx picked up the ball. He passed to his left, and there were Andries Coetzee and Courtnall Skosan racing down the left, passing to each other till the ball went to the right through several hands, reaching Siya Kolisi who ran and gave to Jaco Kriel who ran and gave to Kolisi who ran off easily to the goalposts and a try which took the Springboks from 17-13 to 24-13. That was a magic moment. And yet.....
It was Kolisi's second try after his excellent one in the first half which was followed by one that suggested that these Springboks were really beginners on a back field.
After Kolisi's first try and a penalty for a scrum infringement which Jantjies goaled, the Argentinians kicked off deep, the ball bounced and Ramiro Moyano scored. Not a Springbok touched the ball. Juan Martín Hernández kicked off and Moyano scored. You may never have seen the likes of that in any match you will have watched in the last 20. 30, 40, 50, 60, 70 years!
All of that said, in 2016 South Africans would have been happily relieved by such a result and in 2017 they will acknowledge the continued improvement of the Springboks, but now they are gaining the confidence to expect their team to win well by playing really well. They won but the standard of their play was not what South Africans would like it to be.
Oh, they scrummed well enough to wallop the Pumas, their line-outs were good and they defended with strength and determination. They scored five tries and won a bonus point. Those are all good things.
The Dunedin match emphasised again the importance of fast and accurate scrumhalf play. There was no Will Genia or Aaron Smith in Salta. Slow clearance destroys backs' space.
The Pumas continued to be their own worst enemies. In the first half the penalty count was 9-2 against them. They had a player in the sin bin. In the second half they accrued two more yellow cards. One was a second for Tomás Lavanini which gave him a red card and left his team to play the last 22 minutes with 14 men.
The Springboks also gathered unto themselves a yellow card - for fullback Andries Coetzee for shoving Matías Moroni into the hoardings at the dead-ball line after the Puma wing had scored a try. Apart from that Coetzee had been one of the best players on the field.
On this day the Springboks wore for the first time ever red - a sort of orangey red - jerseys. It was not because of a possible clash with the blue and white hoops of the Pumas but as a celebration of 25 years of rugby unity. How orange/red was appropriate is not obvious.
Elton Jantjies kicked off to start the match on the slightly short, only just wide-enough field, and both sides started kicking away.
The first penalty of the match was against Malcolm Marx and Emiliano Boffelli goaled from a fair way out. 3-0 after 3 minutes. In the next four minutes Jantjies twice missed kicks at goal.
The Pumas suffered their first suspension. Lavanini dived armless into e Coenie Oosthuizen's lower legs and trudged off to the sin bin.
South Africa attacked. They mauled, a ;process which seemed to take the Pumas by surprise as they treated them as free-for-alls. The first Springbok maul took them close to the Puma line but then Francois Hougaard passed the ball to Moyano who raced many metres down the right touchline till Skosan caught him from behind.
At this stage the crowd, clearly mindful of the poor Puma defence last week, were cheering tackles, but Jantjies found a way to get round them.
From a line-out on the Springboks left he chipped a perfect chip. Jesse Kriel caught it out of the air behind the Puma backs and passed inside to Kolisi who strode off to the posts. 7-3 to the Springboks. Then the Pumas were penalised at scrum and Jantjies goaled. 10-3 after 27 minutes.
Hernández kicked off and Montoya scored. 10-10 after 28 minutes. That try is too embarrassing to be repeated.
The Pumas were passing just inside the Springboks half when they dropped the ball. Kolisi got it and ran ahead. With one man to beat he passed to Coetzee on his right and the speedy fullback had a straight 40-metre run to the line. The Springboks were celebrating his score when the TMO examined the pass and found that its had been forward. There was no reason whatsoever to for the forward pass other than that Coetzee was getting ahead of himself.
Hernández missed a drop at goal. Juan Manuel Leguizamón was sent to the sin bin for an accumulation of tackle offences and a penalty gave the Springboks a five--metre line-out. Instead of mauling, the Springboks widened their attack and Jantjies bashed his way to getting the ball to the goal-line for a try which the TMO confirmed., 17-10, which was the half-time score.
The Springboks got their line-out choreography wrong and lost a line-out to set the Pumas attacking. Uzair Cassiem was penalised and Hernández goaled., 17-13 after 43 minutes.
The Pumas bashed at the South African line, and then Marx picked up the ball an d passed it and Kolisi scored down the other end. 24-13 after 48 minutes.
The Springboks started making several changes as on came Steven Kitshoff, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Jean-Luc du Preez, Rudy Paige and others till the bench was emptied. Coenie Oosthuizen may have been replaced for injury, but most were just substitutes.
With 22 minutes to play, the Springboks were attacking on their left. They had an overlap of two when Lavanini stretched out a hand to knock the ball on deliberately. After discussion (in English!) with his assistant on that side, Romain Poite, and the TMO, the referee, a calm and brave man, sent Lavanini packing and awarded a penalty try. 31-13 after 58 minutes.
Joaquín Tuculet kicked high. No Springbok caught it. Martín Landajo footed on, gathered and gave to Ramiro Moroni, who scored in the narrow in-goal area only for Coetzee who shove him into the hoardings, evoking Puma anger and ending with a trip to the sin bin for Coetzee. 31-20 after 59 minutes.
Because Coetzee's action had been after Moroni had scored, the referee penalised the Springboks at the middle of the half-way line and Boffelli goaled. 31-23 with 20 minutes to ;play.
The Pumas were penalised - not often enough? - at a maul and Jantjies goaled. 34-23 with 09 minutes to play. Landajo came close to scoring when he grubbered into in-goal but Raymond Rhule just beat him to the touchdown.
Then with two minutes to go, Jean-Luc scored his first Springbok try in the left corner after an attack of many passes. Jantjies converted from touch. 41-23.
Man of the Match: The most obvious candidates were Siya Kolisi Eben Etzebeth, Jaco Kriel, Malcolm Marx and our choice, flyhalf Elton Jantjies who was brave, skilled and creative.
Moment of the Match: Siya Kolisi's second try and all that made it possible.
Villain of the Match: Tomás Lavanini.
Tries: Moyano, Moroni
Cons: Hernández, Sánchez
Pens: Boffelli 2, Hernández
For South Africa:
Tries: Kolisi 2, Jantjies, Penalty Try, Du Preez
Cons: Jantjies 4
Pens: Jantjies 2
Yellow cards: Tomás Lavanini (Argentina, 9 - foul play, dangerous tackle/ 57 - cynical play, deliberate knock down); Juan Manuel Leguizamón (Argentina, 38 - repeated infringements, coming in from the side); Andries Coetzee (South Africa, 60 - foul play, dangerous charge)
Red Card: Tomás Lavanini (Argentina, 57 - two yellow cards)
Argentina: 15 Joaquín Tuculet, 14 Ramiro Moyano, 13 Matías Orlando, 12 Jerónimo de la Fuente, 11 Emiliano Boffelli, 10 Juan Martín Hernández, 9 Tomás Cubelli, 8 Juan Manuel Leguizamón, 7 Tomás Lezana, 6 Pablo Matera, 5 Tomás Lavanini, 4 Matías Alemanno, 3 Ramiro Herrera, 2 Agustín Creevy (captain), 1 Lucas Noguera.
Replacements: 16 Julián Montoya, 17 Santiago García Botta, 18 Enrique Pieretto, 19 Marcos Kremer, 20 Javier Ortega Desio, 21 Martín Landajo, 22 Nicolás Sánchez, 23 Matías Moroni.
South Africa: 15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Raymond Rhule, 13 Jesse Kriel, 12 Jan Serfontein, 11 Courtnall Skosan, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Francois Hougaard, 8 Zaire Cassiem, 7 Jaco Kriel, 6 Siya Kolisi, 5 Franco Mostert, 4 Eben Etzebeth (captain), 3 Coenraad Oosthuizen, 2 Malcolm Marx, 1 Tendai Mtawarira.
Replacements: 16 Mbongeni Mbonambi, 17 Steven Kitshoff, 18 Trevor Nyakane, 19 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 20 Jean-Luc du Preez, 21 Rudy Paige, 22 Curwin Bosch, 23 Damian de Allende.
Referee: Pascal Gaüzère (France)
Assistant referees: Romain Poite (France), Nic Berry (Australia)
TMO: Glenn Newman (New Zealand)