Pumas cited for fouls

2013-08-26 00:00

THE robust approach of the Pumas, and some of their nefarious activities in the dark underworld of the breakdown, had its sequel yesterday when two of their forwards were cited for biting and eye-gouging Springboks during Saturday’s Rugby Championship international in Mendoza.

Number eight Leonardo Senatore is alleged to have bitten the arm of Springbok lock Eben Etzebeth while the 20-year-old flank Pablo Matera made contact with the face of flank Francois Louw and is charged with eye-gouging.

The Springboks were badly rattled by the ferocity of the Argentines, but won the abrasive international 22-17 — just a week after beating the Pumas 73-13 in Soweto.

The unsavoury moments came in the second half when Springbok captain Jean de Villiers drew the attention of the Australia-based referee Steve Walsh first to the alleged eye-gouging incident and then to Etzebeth’s claim that he had been bitten by Senatore.

Walsh requested clarity from the television match official at the time, but neither incident was confirmed. However, Sanzar’s citing commissioner said yesterday that Matera is alleged to have made contact with the eyes of Louw in the 45th minute of the match and Senatore is charged with biting Etzebeth in the 61st minute of the match.

Sanzar said in two separate statements that the citing commissioner believed the incidents met the red card threshold for foul play and would now be considered by judicial officer Adam Casselden.

Both players would face lengthy bans if found guilty of rugby’s two most serious offences.

Backrowers Senatore, Matera and Juan Manuel Leguizamon were the Pumas’ most impressive players on the day, defending strongly and exposing the Boks’ lack of commitment and organisation at the breakdown.

The confrontational Duane Vermeulen and Louw battled to match the Pumas’ physicality, but a number of the Boks’ big forwards went missing in action. And, behind a retreating, splintered pack, scrumhalf Ruan Pienaar struggled and his service to a misfiring backline was sluggish.

There was an improvement in the second half when the South Africans found some of their intensity — and the ball — but it was again obvious that the Springboks battle to express themselves when their pack fails to achieve dominance. And, in the end, they needed the unerring goalkicking of the composed Morné Steyn to bail them out of an awkward situation.

Coach Heyneke Meyer said that he was not happy with the Bok display but praised the Pumas for their passion and for holding on to the ball for long periods in the first half.

“Harsh words were spoken at half-time [in the dressing-room]. We had some go-forward in the second half and the Pumas did not score again. Sometimes you just have to grind out Test wins.”

He said the Boks would learn from this tough Test and that would benefit them ahead of their game against Australia on September 7.

“When Argentina play this way, it’s very difficult to get the ball and I’m not saying this as an excuse. They played very well and deserve to be in this kind of competition,” Meyer said.

De Villiers admitted it was “one of those bad off-days” for his team.

“We wanted to go out and play but we did not execute properly and we made too many handling errors.”

Pumas coach Santiago Phelan said there had been a change mentally and tactically after the humiliation in Soweto.

“We changed the way we went into the match, fundamentally in our minds. And we accompanied that with a good game. We had a lot of moments in their half and scored points.”

Meanwhile, Toulon president Mourad Boudjellal is adamant that Springbok wing Bryan Habana will make his French Top 14 debut against Grenoble this weekend. The Rugby Championship has a two-week break before the Boks play the Wallabies in Brisbane and New Zealand meet the Pumas on September 7.

“Bryan is paid by the club, it’s normal that he comes just like all the staff if he is asked,” said Boudjellal.

It is unlikely that Saru will release Habana, particularly as a number of other Springboks (including Morné Steyn and Francois Louw) are also contracted to European clubs, but these are confusing times.

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