Boks edge spiteful Mendoza scrap
Boks edge spiteful Mendoza scrapSHARE
South Africa retained their position at the top of the Rugby Championship with a 22-17 win over Argentina on Saturday.
The spiteful encounter in Mendoza, which brought with it accusations of eye-gouging and biting by the home team, was also the Boks' eighth consecutive win.
However, the game was a far cry from the 60-point win by SA in Soweto seven days ago.
It was also South Africa's first win away from home in the Southern Hemisphere championship since they beat the All Blacks in Hamilton in 2009.
The Pumas had a very clear tactic from the outset – bombard the Boks with high balls and chase hard. It certainly brought some reward. However, not all of their kicking was as accurate as they would have wanted.
Another tactic employed by the Pumas was to turn the game into a rough-and-tumble scrap, trying to force the Boks out of their pattern. They were certainly allowed some leeway by referee Steve Walsh, who sometimes has a tendency to let things play itself out, rather than enforce the laws.
There were accusations of eye gouging and biting by the Pumas, with Jean de Villiers pleading with the ref to take control and prevent it from escalating.
There was no doubt the game had taken a very spiteful tone.
The Boks were ratted by this helter-skelter, niggling approach and the men in Green and Gold dropped passes they were holding onto in Soweto last week.
The Boks were also not able to match the passion and urgency brought by the home team in the first half. It was only after the break, when they muscled up, that South Africa took control on the scoreboard.
It was especially evident at the breakdown, where the Pumas flooded the tackle area and won a number of turnovers.
However, Argentina's problems in the set pieces were very all too evident – the first scrum a turnover to the Boks and the next a penalty to SA.
Argentina got off to the perfect start. A Ruan Pienaar mistake handed them a turnover, the ball hacked ahead and chased hard. They swung it wide and the Boks scrambled the ball into touch near their line. From the line-out Juan Manuel Leguizamon came round the front and forced his way over. There may be some questions about Argentinean hooker Eusebio Guiñazú's actions, as he seemed to have taken Adriaan Strauss out to open that gap in the tramways.
Captain Felipe Contepomi added the conversion – 7-0 inside three minutes.
The Boks, winning a turnover from the first scrum, was rewarded with a penalty in the next scrum. And Morné Steyn put the Boks on the board – 3-7 after eight minutes.
When Bjorn Basson went ahead of the kicker, the referee had no hesitation in awarding a penalty – which Contepomi slotted – 10-3, after 11 minutes.
The Boks were next to score. The initial build-up was impressive, but it became progressively more scrappy till quick hands moved the ball t the left where Bjorn Basson had plenty of space and simply used his pace to beat the cover. Steyn's conversion levelled the scores at 10-all, after 15 minutes.
Just past the half-hour mark Francois Louw was caught offside at a ruck/tackle situation, but Contepomi pushed it wide – a kick from under 40 metres and out in front.
However, with the flow of the game going their way, the Pumas raised the tempo and after a number of quick phases it was Marcelo Bosch who barged his way over. Contepomi's conversion made it 17-10 after 38 minutes.
The final act of the half was Steyn taking a shot at goal, after one of the Pumas players was penalised for not releasing in the tackle. The Bok flyhalf mad it 13-17 at the break.
Steyn made that 16-17 five minutes into the second half, when Pablo Matera was fortunate to get away with what appeared to be eye-gouging and then getting penalised for not releasing in the tackle.
The penalty count started to mount against the Pumas, with referee Steve Walsh finally speaking to the Argentineans about some of their dangerous play.
But the Boks, who opted to set up line-outs rather than kick at goal, were unable to make those count.
The game became ever more scrappy, with the Boks still attempting to run at the Pumas – who thoroughly enjoyed the arm-wrestle.
With just under 10 minutes to go, the Boks won another penalty for a collapsed maul and this time Steyn took aim at the posts – putting the South Africa in front for the firs time, 19017.
With just over two minutes remaining Horacio Agulla went offside in front of his posts and the Boks opted to set up a line-out inside the Puma 22. That maul was also collapsed and the Boks won another penalty, this time opting to go for goal.
Steyn slotted the penalty to secure victory for South Africa – giving them their first away victory in the Southern Hemisphere championship since 2009.
Man of the match: Felipe Contepomi's calm demeanour was helpful while he was on the field, while Martin Landajo's kicking game caused plenty of problems for the Boks. Pablo Matera was clearly Argentina' enforcer – with some nasty undertones to it. Juan Manuel Leguizamón not only scored the opening try, but he was involved in so much in the game and produced a few little neat touches to keep the Boks defence honest. Morné Steyn's goal-kicking proved decisive and he showed his value in close encounters. Willie le Roux, as usual, was a mixed bag, but his sublime handling remains invaluable to the Bok cause. However, our award goes to flank Francois Louw, with his work at the breakdown again a big boon to the Boks.
Moment of the match: Bjorn Basson's try in the 14th minute had some sublime handling in it. However, we are going for the opening score of the match, when Juan Manuel Leguizamón went round the front of a line-out in the opening exchanges – it set the tone for the rest of the game.
Villain of the match: The citing officer is going to be busy to sort out this mess, but we have one clear villain. Pablo Matera was involved in what appeared to be an eye-gouge on Francois Louw – he certainly gave him a good facial massage.
Tries: Leguizamon, Bosch
Cons: Contepomi 2
For South Africa:
Pens: Steyn 5
Argentina: 15 Lucas Gonzalez Amorosino, 14 Gonzalo Camacho, 13 Marcelo Bosch, 12 Felipe Contepomi (captain), 11 Horacio Agulla, 10 Nicolás Sánchez, 9 Martín Landajo, 8 Leonardo Senatore, 7 Juan Manuel Leguizamón, 6 Pablo Matera, 5 Mariano Galarza, 4 Julio Farías Cabello, 3 Juan Figallo, 2 Eusebio Guiñazú, 1 Marcos Ayerza.
Replacements: 16 Agustín Creevy, 17 Nahuel Lobo, 18 Matías Díaz, 19 Tomas Lavaninni, 20 Benjamin Macome, 21 Tomás Cubelli, 22 Santiago Fernández, 23 Joaquin Tuculet.
South Africa: 15 Willie le Roux, 14 Bjorn Basson, 13 JJ Engelbrecht, 12 Jean de Villiers (captain), 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Morné Steyn, 9 Ruan Pienaar, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Willem Alberts, 6 Francois Louw, 5 Juandré Kruger, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Adriaan Strauss, 1 Tendai Mtawarira.
Replacements: 16 Bismarck du Plessis, 17 Gurthrö Steenkamp, 18 Coenie Oosthuizen, 19 Flip van der Merwe, 20 Siya Kolisi, 21 Jano Vermaak, 22 Pat Lambie, 23 Jan Serfontein.
Referee: Steve Walsh (Australia)
Assistant referees: John Lacey (Ireland), Pascal Gauzère (France)
TMO: Marshall Kilgore (Ireland)