Boks scrape past Argentina

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IO SPT AUG23 Boks joy AP Trailing by 12 points after 56 minutes, the Springboks lifted themselves off the floor to snatch victory against Argentina. AP Photo/Victor R. Caivano

Morne Steyn kicked a penalty three minutes from time to give South Africa a lucky 33-31 win over Argentina Saturday in a Rugby Championship thriller.

Trailing by 12 points after 56 minutes, the Springboks lifted themselves off the floor to snatch victory and take a one-point lead over title-holders New Zealand after two rounds.

It was another case of so near and yet so far for the Pumas as they remain winless after 14 matches in the southern hemisphere championship.

A stong wind favoured Argentina in the first half and early pressure from the hosts culminated in fly-half Nicolas Sanchez kicking a close-range penalty.

Tentative South Africa were battling to get inside the Pumas' half in hot, clear conditions, and were lucky when a marginal forward-pass call prevented the home side scoring a try.

The scrum problems the Springboks had during a 13-6 win in Pretoria continued and the Pumas looked hungrier at a near-full 20,000-seat Estadio Padre Ernesto Martearena.

However, the visitors levelled when fly-half Handre Pollard slotted a penalty, keeping his nerve amid whistling and booing from the partisan crowd.

A snap drop goal from veteran centre Juan Martin Hernandez restored the Pumas' lead only for Pollard to level again off an easier penalty kick.

Referee Steve Walsh gave the team a water break midway through the half and soon after Argentina took the lead a third time through a try from big left-wing Manuel Montero.

Raw power took the Pumas close to the try-line and when they could not barge over, the ball sped along the line and a skip pass set up the score in the corner and Sanchez converted.

Pollard narrowed the gap to four points with his third penalty as the visitors struggled to stamp any authority on a scrappy opening half.

Springboks scrum-half Ruan Pienaar temporarily switched codes to football as he set up a barely deserved try for Bryan Habana.

Pienaar kicked the ball along the ground three times as a counter-attack caught out the home team and Habana raced up to touch down. Pollard converted for a three-point half-time advantage.

Undaunted, the Pumas made a great start to the second half with two tries inside four minutes from replacement scrum-half Tomas Cubelli and full-back Joaquin Tuculet.

Cubelli evaded two weak tackles after a scrum to go over and Tuculet held off Springbok centres Damian de Allende and Jean de Villiers to dot down in the corner.

Sanchez continued to have a mixed afternoon from place kicks as he converted the first while the second attempt drifted wide of the far post.

The fly-half did succeed with his next shot at goal -- a close-range penalty -- and Argentina were 28-16 ahead.

South Africa hit back with a try from right-wing Cornal Hendricks in the corner as he did well to score under severe pressure.

Replacement fly-half Steyn converted and there were just five points between the teams as they took a second water break.

With 10 minutes to go South Africa edged ahead for the second time in the match as replacement flank Marcell Coetzee scored off a Springbok favourite -- the driving maul.

Steyn converted, South Africa were two points ahead, and the crowd were stunned.

Not for long, though, as centre Marcelo Bosch took a penalty from inside his half and the high kick went between the points to give Argentina a 31-30 lead.

But Steyn had the final say, keeping calm under intense pressure to slot the match-winning penalty.– AFP

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