Planet Rugby

Springboks battle past Pumas

16th August 2014 17:47

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Duane Vermeulen of the Springboks Rugby Championship South Africa v Argentina

On the charge: Duane Vermeulen

South Africa got their Rugby Championship campaign off to a winning start on Saturday thanks to a hard-fought 13-6 victory over Argentina at a very wet Loftus Versfeld.

Springbok scrum-half Ruan Pienaar scored the only try of a game marred by horrendous conditions.

Those expecting the Pumas to get blown away were sorely mistaken as the South Americans fronted up, using the conditions to turn the game into a real armwrestle.

Heyneke Meyer would have been disappointed to see his team unable to create more opportunities considering he is building a gameplan around the expected wet conditions at next year's World Cup.

The Bok set piece was far from dominant, in fact they were going backwards at scrum time. Argentina's defence against the maul was brilliant and the visitors managed to pinch a few line-outs too.

To be fair, the unseasonal rain in Pretoria caught everyone by surprise and handling was extremely difficult.

The hosts led 10-3 at the interval thanks to an early try from Pienaar. A massive thunderstorm - complete with bursts of hail - ensured that the scores remained low.

The torrential rain slowed to a drizzle in time for the second half, but the field remained drenched and just two penalties were scored after the break.

It took just 70 seconds for the Boks to produce the only try as Pienaar and Cornal Hendricks combined down the blindside to scamper away and put the scrum-half over.

Handré Pollard added the extras for a perfect start for the home side, but highlights would be few and far between for the following 78-odd minutes.

The next six points would come as a result of Argentina's dominance at scrum time.

The Pumas scrum destroyed their Springbok counterparts to allow Nicolás Sánchez to open the visitors' account from the kicking tee.

The Argentine front row jumped the gun just before the end of the first quarter though and were penalised for pushing too soon. Pollard made it 10-3.

Both sides came close to scoring tries before the break but Manuel Montero couldn't hold onto Sánchez's pass with the tryline begging.

Likewise, Willie le Roux was unable to control the slippery ball as he tried to gather his own chip ahead - although he would have left a little aggrieved after being held back.

Immediately after the restart Sánchez hit the target from long range - after Lood de Jager didn't roll away - but Morné Steyn, who took over from Pollard early in the second half, replied in kind to restore the seven-point gap soon afterwards.

It was the Pumas who finished the stronger side and the Boks would have been relieved to see their defence hold up against sustained pressure in the final quarter.

With six minutes left on the clock the visitors earned a penalty and kicked for the line where they set up a line-out five metres out.

The Boks managed to get out of jail and managed to avert the second Rugby Championship draw of the day after New Zealand and Australia played to a 12-12 stalemate earlier on Saturday.

Argentina remained undeterred and continued probing and again the visitors came close to scoring when a Steyn clearance kick was charged down before debutant Damian de Allende snatched the ball from the hands of Jeronimo de la Fuente inside the goal area.

Just short of a minute from time Argentina again formed an attacking line-out five metres from the line and launched attack on the line but a handling error brought the match to a dramatic end.

Indeed, although los Pumas would probably have been happy to take a losing bonus-point before kick-off, in retrospect they'll be disappointed to not have snatched a draw.

Man of the match: A hard choice as there weren't many highlights. Ramiro Herrera deserves a mention for his scrummaging and Nicolás Sánchez was the most dangerous player with ball in hand. But the game was won in trenches, where Juan Martín Fernández Lobbe worked tirelessly. Marcell Coetzee topped the tackle stats, tackling his heart out alongside Francois Louw.

Moment of the match: Only one option here, Pienaar's try put Argentina in a difficult position from the start.

Villain of the match: The idiot doing a rain dance in the car park before kick off.

The scorers:

For South Africa:
Try: Pienaar
Con: Pollard
Pens: Pollard, Steyn

For Argentina:
Pens: Sanchez 2

South Africa: 15 Willie le Roux, 14 Cornal Hendricks, 13 Damian de Allende, 12 Jean de Villiers (c), 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Handré Pollard, 9 Ruan Pienaar, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Marcell Coetzee, 6 Francois Louw, 5 Lood de Jager, 4 Bakkies Botha, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Bismarck du Plessis, 1 Tendai Mtawarira.
Replacements: 16 Adriaan Strauss, 17 Trevor Nyakane, 18 Frans Malherbe, 19 Eben Etzebeth, 20 Teboho Mohoje, 21 Francois Hougaard, 22 Morné Steyn, 23 Jan Serfontein.

Argentina: 15 Joaquín Tuculet, 14 Horacio Agulla, 13 Marcelo Bosch, 12 Santiago González Iglesias, 11 Manuel Montero, 10 Nicolás Sánchez, 9 Martín Landajo, 8 Juan Manuel Leguizamón, 7 Juan Martín Fernández Lobbe, 6 Pablo Matera, 5 Tomás Lavanini, 4 Mariano Galarza, 3 Ramiro Herrera, 2 Agustín Creevy (c), 1 Marcos Ayerza.
Replacements: 16 Matías Cortese, 17 Lucas Noguera Paz, 18 Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro, 19 Matías Alemanno, 20 Leonardo Senatore, 21 Tomás Cubelli, 22 Jeronimo de la Fuente, 23 Lucas González Amorosino.

Venue: Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria
Referee: John Lacey (Ireland)
Assistant Referees: Steve Walsh (Australia), Marius Mitrea (Italy)
TMO: Simon McDowell (Ireland)

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