Salta, Argentina – South Africa coach Heyneke Meyer hailed the character of his team Sunday in the wake of a lucky 33-31 Rugby Championship victory over Argentina in Salta.
Serial match-winner Morne Steyn ignored whistling and booing to slot a penalty three minutes from time and give the Springboks a second win over the Pumas within eight days.
It was the climax of a stirring last-quarter comeback by the visitors as tries from right-wing Cornal Hendricks and flank Marcell Coetzee wiped out a 12-point deficit.
“I do not want to say every weekend that we have shown great character, but we have now won nine of our last 10 away games.
“My guys proved again that they know how to win,” Meyer said of a result that kept South Africa top of the table after two rounds, one point ahead of New Zealand.
“We were down and out at one stage and the team came back. There are a lot of areas to work on, but we are still in this competition.”
Meyer said an ankle injury suffered by replacement tight-head prop Frans Malherbe would rule him out of the other four Championship matches.
Springboks skipper Jean de Villiers believed the energy of the seven substitutes used was a crucial factor in getting out of jail in the heat of north-western Argentina.
“I am not saying those who started did badly, but our bench made a big impact and that is probably where the match was won.
“We see those on the bench as impact players rather than replacements,” said the centre and veteran of 98 Springbok Tests.
De Villiers also lauded Argentina, who seemed set for their first Championship victory when leading 28-16 midway through the second half at Estadio Padre Ernesto Martearena.
“Once again I am saying that they are a much better team than their world ranking of eighth suggests,” he said.
“We were happy to pull through, but the match could have gone either way.”
Argentina coach Daniel Hourcade and skipper Agustin Creevy found it hard to accept losing just a week after a 13-6 defeat in monsoon-like Pretoria conditions.
“We failed to close the game out after playing at a higher level than the Springboks for much of the game,” admitted Hourcade.
“I do not feel good – there is frustration because we did not handle the closing stages well.”
The Pumas scored three tries for the first time in 14 Championship matches since their 2012 debut and this cheered the coach.
“We must attack if we are going to beat South Africa, New Zealand and Australia and I believe we are on the right track.
He also praised his forwards, who gave the heavier Springbok pack a torrid time for an hour, especially in the scrums.
England-based hooker Creevy said: “There is a lot of disappointment within the team because this is a game we could have won.”
South Africa and Argentina head for Australasia in early September to play New Zealand and Australia. – Sapa-AFP