DURBAN - Against most scripts, the Springboks were shocked in Mendoza as Argentina emerged victorious 32-19 in the second game of the Rugby Championship.
It was a blitz in the first half and a strong display of defense in the second from the Pumas that led to the demise of the Boks; their second loss in two games away from home under coach Rassie Erasmus.
The first half of the Springboks’ first away game in the Rugby Championship under Erasmus did not go nearly as planned. It was 35 minutes of the Boks getting bullied off the ball, and outplayed in most facets of the game, despite scoring first.
The Pumas looked a different beast with their home crowd behind them. Scrum and breakdown woes from Durban suddenly disappeared as tries rained against the visitors, as well as penalties, conversions and even a drop goal.
The second half at least looked a bit better for the Boks, but the Pumas had played their hand and were happy to defend their way to an important win; their third ever against the Boks, and the second in Argentina.
The talk after the Durban Test for the Pumas was about trying to match up to the SprIngboks’ physicality and domination at the breakdown. To that end, the home side extracted the first point-scoring penalty from a breakdown that Nicolas Sanchez duly slotted.
What made matters even worse was Handre Pollard’s kicking woes continued from Durban as he missed his first penalty shot at goal. It was not to be too costly as Siya Kolisi managed to slip through a tackle from Sanchez to sprint to the line for the five-pointer with Pollard converting the try.
The toing and froing continued though as Argentina were able to breach the Bok defensive line with a skilful inside pass that left the Boks short on covering defense allowing Bautista Delguy to put the home side into the lead.
Delguy was back on the scoresheet soon after his first as another slick Argentinian move tore open the Boks defense from the base of a scrum. This left the Boks trailing 17-7 after only 23 minutes.
Things went from bad to worse after those two quick tries as Eben Etzebeth was shown a yellow card for a professional foul, holding the ball in the ruck just metres short of the Bok tryline. The Springbok defense showed even more holes as Sanchez this time got on the scoresheet for the Pumas’ third try after jinking his way along the left wing.
With the half drawing to the close and the Springboks still under pressure, Sanchez wisely took his chance to slot a long range drop goal to extend the lead to 20 points before the first half was even over.
The second half did not start well for the Boks either as this time, the other Argentine wing, Ramiro Moyano, found space around the defense of the visitors to score; the lead pushed out to 25.
But finally, the Boks managed to stem the tide as Lionel Mapoe, who replaced Makazole Mapimpi on the wing, had an easy run in for the Boks’ second try with Pollard adding the important extras.
That try certainly buoyed the Boks as they first managed to take away momentum from the Pumas, but they also wrestled control of the game back. There was a disallowed try, and some close calls, before Mapoe got his second of the day from some magic offloading from Willie le Roux.
Confidence continued to grow as the Springboks finally looked ready to play, but it was all too little, too late as the Pumas consolidated their own game to lock up shop, keeping the Boks clear of their line until the end of the game.