Boks pummel pitiful Pumas
South Africa laid down a big marker, as they recorded a record 73-13 win over Argentina in Soweto on Saturday.
South Africa laid down a big marker, as they produced a record 73-13 win over Argentina in their opening Rugby Championship match in Soweto on Saturday.
The nine-try, 60-point rout improved on the Springboks' previous biggest win over the Pumas - a 63-9 victory in Johannesburg in 2008.
Despite a nervous start, in which the Boks were hesitant to try anything, the home eventually cut loose in the second half.
On the half-hour mark the Boks held a slender three-point (9-6) lead and by half-time that was 26-6 - which included a penalty try.
However, the Boks added seven more five-pointers after the break, some of them showing they are evolving into a more attacking outfit.
Dominating the physical exchanges, the tackle area and the set pieces, they broke the visitors' resistance with their dominant second-half display.
The Boks, with Eben Etzebeth the main contributor, put enormous pressure on the Puma line-outs.
It didn't help the Pumas that they lost stalwart Patricio Albacete with an injury inside the first quarter - given that regular captain Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe was already sidelined in the build-up.
South Africa's defence also stood up to whatever the Argentineans threw t them and often saw the Pumas going lateral, rather than making forward progress.
And that defence earned a turnover that resulted in a 90-metre try for JJ Engelbrecht late in the first half.
South Africa's scrum was another dominant aspect of the game, a huge fillip for the Boks given that this is traditionally a Puma strength.
The game got off to a very iffy start - the first three scrums going: free kick to SA, reset, free kick to SA. And when there was some semblance of play Argentina were penalised for a breakdown offence.
Morné Steyn, from 40 metres out, slotted the penalty to get the Boks on the board.
When the Pumas collapsed a fast-moving Bok maul, Steyn - from just inside his half - slotted another kick to make it 6-0 inside the opening 10 minutes.
Sixteen minutes into the match the Boks were penalised for having two scrumhalves at a line-out and Felipe Contepomi put the visitors on the board - 36.
At the end of the first quarter Francois Louw earned his team a penalty at the breakdown and Steyn again raised the flags - 9-3.
When Adriaan Strauss was penalised at the breakdown in the 23rd minute, Contepomi narrowed the gap to 6-9.
South Africa continued to apply the blowtorch, keeping the Pumas pinned inside their 22 - winning a number of penalties, which they turned into line-outs and forcing the visitors into more desperate defence.
It eventually earned them a penalty try and Eusebio Guinazu 10 minutes in the sin bin for deliberately slapping down the ball metres from the line. Steyn made the lead 16-6.
That was followed quickly by a try from JJ Engelbrecht - the Boks winning a turnover inside their 22, Morné Steyn launching a counter, off-loading to Willie le Roux, who chipped ahead and Engelbrecht collecting the favourable bounce. Steyn added the extras - 23-6 after 34 minutes.
Steyn added another penalty to give his team a 26-6 lead at the half-time break.
It took the Boks just six minutes after the break to get their next try - Adriaan Strauss going over after a maul was splintered and he raced the last few metres on his own. Steyn's conversion made it 33-6.
And it went from bad to worse - Leonardo Senatore being yellow carded for a spear tackle on JJ Engelbrecht.
And the Boks took advantage of their numerical advantage, Willem Alberts at the back of a powerful maul for the bonus-point try. Steyn missed the conversion - 38-6.
That became 45-6 very quickly, as a deep kick from the restart was chased by captain Jean de Villiers, who intercepted a looping pass. The conversion was good.
Next was veteran Fourie du Preez, marking his return to the Boks after two year on the sidelines, with a try - going over from a move started by Jean de Villiers, who cut through in midfield, before Bryan Habana raced to within metres and a ruck ensued. It was from here, a metre out, that Du Preez flopped over. Steyn made it 52-6.
And the rout continued - with Bryan Habana (a well-worked backline move) and Duane Vermeulen (an inside pass from Morné Steyn) going over. Two more Steyn conversions and it was a record 66-6 margin, with 10 minutes left on the clock.
There was still time for Bismarck du Plessis to get a try, from another very effective maul, and go past John Smit as South Africa's most prolific try-scoring hooker. Steyn slotted to conversion - 73-6.
Filipe Contepomi got a consolation score in the final minute, but the record rout was complete.
Man of the match: Duane Vermeulen produced the first real line-break of the first half and showed his value as a bal-carrier, while Francois Louw was again a menace at the breakdown. It would be unfair to ignore the contribution of Willem Alberts. Willie le Roux had some nice touches and remains South Africa's biggest threat in the backline, while Morné Steyn was very efficient in directing play. Captain Jean de Villiers also exploded through a few gaps in midfield. Fourie du Preez also showed he lost none of the skills that once made him the world's top scrumhalf. Adriaan Strauss threw himself recklessly into contact and was very effective as a ball carrier. However, our award goes to lock Eben Etzebeth, who showed he is so much more than just a brute - as his work in the line-outs showed. The pressure he puts on the opposition throw is invaluable and some of his carries were every bit as impressive as those produced by Strauss.
Moment of the match: There was Fourie du Preez's try, marking his return after two years away from the Test arena. However, our award goes to the JJ Engelbrecht try late in the first half - which showed South Africa's willingness to attack from near their own line and do so very efficiently.
Villain of the match: It may have been a frustrating day at the office, but Leonardo Senatore's spear tackle on JJ Engelbrecht was uncalled for.
For South Africa:
Tries: Penalty try, Engelbrecht, Strauss, Alberts, De Villiers, Du Preez, Habana, Vermeulen, B du Plessis
Cons: Steyn 8
Pens: Steyn 4
Pens: Contepomi 2
Yellow cards: Eusebio Guinazu (Argentina, 30 - professional foul, slapping down the ball), Leonardo Senatore (Argentina, 50 - foul play, spear tackle)
South Africa: 15 Willie le Roux, 14 Bjorn Basson, 13 JJ Engelbrecht, 12 Jean de Villiers (captain), 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Morné Steyn, 9 Ruan Pienaar, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Willem Alberts, 6 Francois Louw, 5 Juandré Kruger, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Adriaan Strauss, 1 Tendai Mtawarira.
Replacements: 16 Bismarck du Plessis, 17 Gurthrö Steenkamp, 18 Coenie Oosthuizen, 19 Flip van der Merwe, 20 Siya Kolisi, 21 Fourie du Preez, 22 Pat Lambie, 23 Jan Serfontein.
Argentina: 15 Juan Martin Hernandez, 14 Gonzalo Camacho, 13 Marcelo Bosch, 12 Felipe Contepomi (captain), 11 Juan Imhoff, 10 Nicolas Sanchez, 9 Martin Landajo, 8 Leonardo Senatore, 7 Juan Martin Leguizamon, 6 Pablo Matera, 5 Patricio Albacete, 4 Manuel Carizza, 3 Matias Diaz, 2 Eusebio Guinazu, 1 Juan Figallo.
Replacements: 16 Agustin Creevy, 17 Nahuel Lobo, 18 Juan Pablo Orlandi, 19 Mariano Galarza, 20 Julio Farias Cabello, 21 Tomas Cubelli, 22 Santiago Fernandez, 23 Horacio Agulla.
Referee: Chris Pollock (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Pascal Gauzère (France), John Lacey (Ireland)
TMO: Eric Gauzins (France)