The Springboks record 46-13 win over Argentina on Saturday was impressive and a morale booster before the Rugby World Cup which starts in 41 days. But all is not yet well.
It was the highest victory margin by the Springboks in Argentina and their third biggest vicotory overall against the Pumas..
The initial rowdy, optimistic crowd became gradually quieter as the game wore on and the initial supremacy of the Pumas was worn down by an abrasive Springbok pack and a brilliant Handré Pollard.
Yes, it was only their third biggest victory, but such is the role of home advantage and over-confidence in rugby that each win should be taken as it comes.
♦ Saturday’s score was impressive and the 33 points margin their biggest win yet against the Pumas in Argentina.
In 2013 the Springboks beat Argentina by 60 points in their 73-13 romp at the FNB Stadium just outside Soweto. Just the following week, South Africa lost the second round in the Rugby Championship 17-22 in Mendoza. That was a turnaround of 65 points
But the Argentinians at home are indeed a team to take seriously – and that is what makes Saturday’s 33-point win such a stand-out performance.
The Springboks are wary indeed of the Pumas on their home territory. They lost in Argentina last year when they were beaten 32-19 in Mendoza, lost their previous match in Salta (2017) 23-41, scraped through 26-24, also in Salta (2016), lost the match before that in Argentina when they went down 12-26 in Buenos Aires in 2015 and had another close shave in Salta in 2014 when the Boks won 33-31.
The 73-13 followed a 63-9 win at Ellis Park (52 points winning margin) while the Springboks third highest score remains the 52-23 by which they won in Buenos Aires in 1993 – the Boks second match ever against the Pumas with their first-ever-meeting the week before being a close win for the Boks, 29-26. Both these matches were played in Buenos Aires.
♦ There was much good in Saturday’s win but also glaring shortcomings that will have to be worked on.
Firstly, Handré Pollard. He is now undoubtedly one of the world’s best flyhalves. His work rate, options, ability to read and control the game plus his reliable goal-kicking make him an indispensable cog in the Bok machine. Add his record 31 points against Argentina, including two well-taken tries with running onto the ball where the opposition was weakest at those moments, and you have the picture of a brilliant performance.
The defence of the Springboks and their scrummaging were probably the highlights and a big factor in their win. However, their inability – albeit against an also very good defence – to effectively play the ball wide and some iffish handling behind the pack are matters for concern.
Faf de Klerk’s off-day cost the Boks in territory and possession because of his poor placing of the kicks., and his influence behind the pack was at best average.
Willie le Roux also had a quiet day. His influence on the game was neglegible and, as is his wont from time to time, his options and especially his passing weren’t up to standard.
Up front in a very good pack display, Trevor Nyakane’s scrummaging was supplemented with some outstanding work on defence with 15 tackles. In fact, the pack as a whole and individually, including the replacements, were outstanding.
It has become time that their dominance is used to keep the opposition under territorial pressure and that the backs become more of a factor on attack.
Argentina (13) 13: Try: Santiago Cordero. Conversion: Nicolás Sánchez. Penalty: Sánchez.
Springboks (24) 46: Tries: Bongi Mbonambi, Handré Pollard (2), Makazole Mapimpi, Cheslin Kolbe. Conversions: Pollard (2). Penalties: Pollard (5).