Boks leave it late to edge Argentina

Date published: August 20 2016

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South Africa faught back from 13-23 down to beat Argentina 30-23 in their Rugby Championship opener in Nelspruit on Saturday.

Nerves of steel are becoming a mandatory requirement for players and fans alike in the Allister Coetzee era after Warren Whiteley scored a last minute try to complete a strong comeback by the hosts.

There certainly were moments when South Africa must have feared the worst in losing only a second ever home game against the Pumas. But like they showed in the series against Ireland, this Bok team can grind out a win even if they looked wholly unconvincing for large parts of this contest.

Argentina gave everything and will be kicking themselves that they allowed the Springboks back into the game after taking an imposing ten-point lead with 12 minutes to play. The wet conditions definitely played a part in the standard of the game but Argentina will still feel they had a great chance to secure a memorable victory in South Africa.

In the end it wasn't to be thanks to some sublime combination play at the death. The Boks took the ball through the phases from a line-out inside Argentina's 22. Jaco Kriel and Juan de Jongh carried the ball well before the ball went out wide. Eben Etzebeth and Bryan Habana both drew defenders before Habana offloaded to Whiteley, who beat his man to crash over in the left-hand corner.

South Africa started the game strongly and looked up for the game. Jantjies missed an early penalty but soon made up for it when he exploited a gap in broken play. The ball was recycled quickly to Johan Goosen who found himself in space before putting Ruan Combrinck away for a try in the corner.

Argetina were reduced to 14 men when Manuel Montero was sent off for a tip tackle on Damian de Allende, but the Boks failed to capatalise on their numerical advantage. Instead they conceded 10 points during that period through a penalty and a try.

Some thrilling running rugby by los Pumas, which started inside their own 22, resulted in a brilliant try for Matias Orlando which Nicolas Sanchez converted for a 13-10 lead.

South Africa had a great chance to take the lead and ease the pressure when Lionel Mapoe went over after some build-up play following a five-metre line-out. However, replays confirmed he lost the ball going over and the try was disallowed.

The second half didn't start well for the hosts when Habana received a yellow card after slipping and taking out Cordero in the air. Still, Jantjies managed to level the score with a penalty despite Argentina enjoying a greater percentage of the possession throughout the game.

The Boks were guilty of too many basic mistakes, especially in the second half and didn't do enough with the ball when they did have it. Cordero punished some poor tactical kicking by Jantjies to stretch the lead to 23-13 after Argentina launched a counter-attack following a pointless up-and-under by Jantjies.

Etzebeth made a great cover tackle but the visitors recycled quickly before Sanchez chipped the ball over the Bok defence for Cordero to pounce.

South Africa looked down and out at this stage, just like they did in the second Test against Ireland, but they composed themselves and hit back with a try through Goosen to get back into the game. From a scrum, the excellent Faf de Klerk gathered the ball and ran down the blind side, sucking in three defenders in before giving the inside pass to Goosen who timed his run well to run through unapposed.

A Jantjies penalty levelled things at 23-23 before Whiteley finished off with the match-winning try to spare the home side an embarrassing defeat. 

The scorers:

For South Africa:
Tries: Combrinck, Goosen, Whiteley
Cons: Jantjies 3
Pens: Jantjies 3
Yellow Card: Habana

For Argentina:
Tries: Orlando, Cordero
Cons: Sanchez 2
Pens: Sanchez 3
Yellow Card: Montero

The teams:

South Africa: 15 Johan Goosen, 14 Ruan Combrinck, 13 Lionel Mapoe, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Elton Jantjies, Faf de Klerk, 8 Warren Whiteley, 7 Teboho Mohoje, 6 Francois Louw, 5 Lood de Jager, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Julian Redelinghuys, 2 Adriaan Strauss (c) , Tendai Mtawarira.
Replacements: 16 Bongi Mbonambi, 17 Steven Kitshoff, 18 Vincent Koch, 19 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 20 Jaco Kriel, 21 Rudy Paige, 22 Juan de Jongh, 23 Jesse Kriel.

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 Leguizamon, 6 Pablo Matera, 5 Tomas Lavanini, 4 Matías Alemanno, 3 Ramiro Herrera, 2 Agustín Creevy, 1 Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro.
Replacements: 16 Julián Montoya, 17 Felipe Arregui, 18 Enrique Pieretto, 19 Guido Petti, 20 Javier Ortega Desio, 21 Tomás Cubelli, 22 Santiago Gonzalez Iglesias, 23 Ramiro Moyano.

Date: Saturday, August 20
Venue: Mbombela Stadium, Nelspruit
Kick-off: 17:05 local (15:05 GMT)
Referee: Glen Jackson (New Zealand)
Assistant Referees: Jérôme Garcès (France), Ben O'Keeffe (New Zealand)
TMO: George Ayoub (Australia)

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