Springboks just too powerful for Pumas

2013-08-18 14:00

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Argentina have never beaten South Africa at rugby and on the evidence of yesterday’s one-sided encounter in the Nelson Mandela Sport and Culture Day, it seems unlikely they ever will.

Quite the opposite of the famous song, it was indeed time to weep for the Pumas as they were outclassed by the Springboks; conceding nine tries to one in a 60-point hiding.

In a stadium that was less than half full after many of the fans who had watched Bafana Bafana beat Burkina Faso 2-0 had filtered away, the Boks hardly enchanted their cross-over audience, many of whom did not understand the subtleties of the rugged oval-ball game and with an unusual soundtrack of buzzing vuvuzelas, but ran riot in the last three-quarters of the match.

After a lethargic first 20 minutes, Duane Vermeulen’s dynamic charge through Argentine ranks in the 24th minute, with the score 9-6 to the Boks, sounded the death knell for the Pumas.

Vermeulen was unable to find JJ Engelbrecht with his back-flip but he had won the bridgehead the Springboks were searching for and in a few more minutes they had two tries and a lead of 23-6.

The first saw referee Chris Pollock of New Zealand trot to the posts to award a penalty try after consultation with the TV Match Official confirmed his suspicion that the Argentine hooker Eusebio Guinazu had deliberately knocked down a ball that would have ended up as a try to Ruan Pienaar.

Guinazu was sin-binned for his trouble and moments later Pollock was standing on the same spot awarding a try to Engelbrecht.

Fly-half Morné Steyn badly missed fielding a chip ahead by Juan Imhoff but his blushes were spared as Juandre Kruger pulled off a fine tackle and steal.

Next, Argentina spilled the ball and the Boks worked it to Willie le Roux on the short side. The fullback’s chip ahead was chased down by Engelbrecht for a clear run to the far end of the field.

Steyn added the conversion and another penalty for good measure just before the half-time whistle and the Boks went to the break 26-6 and the hard graft effectively done.

Matches like this can go two ways – the ascendant side can kick on and power away or become complacent and sloppy.

Fortunately, the Boks chose the high road and the score ballooned out of a demoralised Argentine side’s control as Andries Strauss, Willem Alberts, captain Jean de Villiers, Fourie du Preez (just nine minutes after making his re-appearance in a Springbok jersey), Bryan Habana and Duane Vermeulen made it a steady green procession to bring up the devil’s number – 66-6.

Coach Heyneke Meyer grabbed the opportunity to send on all his reserves. Another try followed for hooker Bismarck du Plessis, and the Pumas had the dubious consolation of getting the last score of a disappointing match, a try to skipper Felipe Contepomi.

After such a dominant performance, the only possible negative was trying to assess the value of the Boks’ performance. Was it that De Villiers’ men were just so good or, looking ahead to other, tougher challenges, or was it perhaps that the Pumas were out of their league?

Certainly, the Boks’ running and handling lacked the fluidity seen earlier from the All Blacks and more work needs to be done to add angles and other subtleties. But the set-piece work and general forward skills were clearly superior.

Argentina had high hopes for their second season in The Rugby Championship, but it is difficult to see them finding the spirit to stand up to the Springboks when the two sides meet in their next match in Mendoza, Argentina, on Saturday.

The real challenge for the Boks will come when they tour Down Under – to play the Wallabies in Brisbane, Australia, on September 7 and the supercharged All Blacks in Auckland on September 14.

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