Boks come crashing down to earth in Mendoza
Argentina bounced back from their Durban loss to respond in resounding fashion, handing Rassie Erasmus’ Springbok side their biggest ever defeat against the South American side as they went down 32-19 in Mendoza on Saturday night.
In a fixture that the Springboks have struggled in every year since Argentina has joined the Castle Lager Rugby Championship, this performance will certainly rate as the worst performance in Argentina in a long Springbok history and come as a massive setback to Erasmus’ plans with the national side.
On an afternoon in Mendoza where the Springboks were hoping to back up their Durban victory with another, it took three sublime tries in just eight minutes in the first half to turn the contest on its head and put the Boks firmly on the back foot, from which they never recovered.
A brace by winger Bautista Delguy, followed by a poor yellow card for Eben Etzebeth which led to Nicolas Sanchez adding a third try, literally stopped any chance the Boks had of leaving with a victory and exposed some poor faultlines in the Bok make-up.
As expected the Puma forwards grew an extra leg at home, and backed up by some liberal interpretations of both the breakdown and offside line by referee Angus Gardner, were allowed to run free as the Boks simply disintegrated under the pressure the defensive line put on them.
The chief destroyer was flanker Pablo Matera, who was a constant thorn in the Bok flesh, while Thomas Lavanini also was a constant threat. Both could easily have been carded in another game with a stricter ref, but on the night were dominant in distrupting and slowing the Bok ball down.
To be fair, teams push the lines in international rugby and the way the Boks reacted cost them the game. Defensive lapses at crucial times in the first half, and poor decision-making stunted the chances they did have, and too often took away the chance they had for any possible comeback.
The Puma linespeed was exceptional, possibly illegal some of the time, but it hurried the Bok attack into mistakes and where they needed patience and a counter, none ever came.
What rather transpired was a disjointed performance that forced the Puma defence to make a massive 149 tackles – more than double the Springboks helping – and saw a Springbok side unable to convert some 61 percent of possession in the game into points.
Still, the Puma play must be applauded. They beat the Boks to the breakdown and slowed down their ball, their defence was superb and they took their chances when they came, driving home the advantage of Etzebeth’s yellow card when it mattered.
The physical dominance of Durban had disappeared and the Bok hopes of a new dawn were shattered as they were outplayed by a side with enough streetsmarts to play the limits.
And this all disappeared after a beautiful opening try by captain Siya Kolisi, who shifted past the press defence to find the smallest of gaps, and then accelerate forward for an inspirational try.
But that moment was negated by some poor defence from a dominant scrum, where the Bok defensive line was exposed, with Nicolas Sanchez putting a beautiful inside pass to Emiliano Boffelli, who eventually put Delguy away for his first try.
A charge down bounced perfectly for the home side for their second try, again with Delguy finishing and on the attack for a third, they were stopped short, and Etzebeth inexplicably shifted a long arm out to slow the ball down on his line. Gardner had no option but to yellow card him, a costly mistake as Sanchez scored shortly afterwards. From the Boks being 7-3 up, they were suddenly 24-7 down.
Sanchez added a drop goal before the break to extend the lead as the Boks were staring down the barrel at halftime.
They needed to score early in the second half, but things went from bad to worse when Ramiro Moyano sprinted around the corner to make it 34-7, and putting the result out of the Boks reach.
To their credit they did get two tries back to repair the damage, but it was a long way off what was required. A forward pass denied Aphiwe Dyantyi another try and the Boks a chance of trying to run the scoreline close, as it became clearer that the Pumas not only had the bounce of the ball but also the Boks’ number in the contest.
To put the win in perspective, Argentina have only beaten the Boks twice before, and their only win in Argentina was in 2016 in Salta, where they scraped home 26-24. The victory not only is their biggest margin, but also a warning call that under new coach Mario Ledesma they will be more than a handful in future.
Rassie Erasmus’ Springbok record continues to hover at 50%, while he experiments ahead of the bigger contests with Australia and New Zealand that await. But on the evidence of another poor away showing by the national team, Erasmus will have his work cut out before heading to Australasia.
The performance was not only sub-par, but also undid much of the good work the Boks have done in the few months he has been in charge.
Argentina – tries: Bautista Delguy (2), Nicolas Sanchez, Ramiro Moyano. Conversions: Nicolas Sanchez (3). Penalty: Sanchez. Drop goal: Sanchez.
South Africa – tries: Lionel Mapoe (2), Siya Kolisi. Conversions: Handre Pollard (2).
SOURCED FROM RUGBY SA WEBSITE.