Springboks survive Los Pumas' late comeback
REPORT: South Africa have avoided one of the great Rugby Championship upsets, surviving an incredible Argentina comeback to win 22-21 at Ellis Park on Saturday.
The result means the Springboks finished the Rugby Championship as runners-up after New Zealand bagged the trophy with their 38-7 win over Australia earlier.
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The Springbok managed to outscore the Los Pumas three tries to two, while three missed kicks at goal by flyhalf Santiago Carreras proved costly for the visitors.
The Springboks took a 15-9 lead at the break, but a brave second-half performance by the Los Pumas saw them put the hosts under loads of pressure.
They camped inside the Boks’ half but a breakaway try by flyhalf Manie Libbok on 69 minutes became crucial as it extended the South African lead to a comfortable 13 points.
Despite the deficit the Los Pumas never backed down and tries from wing Mateo Carreras and replacement scrumhalf Gonzalo Bertranou reduced the deficit to just one point.
Much pre-match attention had focused on dynamic South Africa scrumhalf Grant Williams as he prepared to make his first start after three appearances off the bench.
But his outing lasted just 16 seconds as he was concussed after colliding with Argentina fullback Jean Cruz Mallia, having cleared the ball. The fullback escaped punishment with the referee Andrew Brace labelling the collision as unavoidable and not deliberate.
Williams was stretched off and replaced by veteran Faf de Klerk, who helped the Springboks defeat England in the 2019 Rugby World Cup final in Japan.
Argentina captain and hooker Julian Montoya was another early casualty but continued after a head injury was strapped.
He left the field later in the half with his face covered in blood but came back after changing his bandaging and blue and white hooped shirt.
Pumas strike early
Two successful penalty kicks by flyhalf Santiago Carreras gave the Pumas a six-point advantage after 10 minutes as the hosts were slow to settle.
A close-range Libbok penalty sailed between the posts to halve the deficit and the home team went ahead on 19 minutes through a try from lock Eben Etzebeth, winning his 112th cap.
Etzebeth and hooker Malcolm Marx combined in a clever lineout manoeuvre that ended with the second row charging over near the corner flag.
Libbok failed to convert but did add the extra points to a second South African try after 26 minutes as centre Damian de Allende touched down following a driving maul.
Santiago Carreras, who was injured and temporarily replaced by Tomas Albornoz, returned to complete the first-half scoring with a penalty just before the break.
Before Irish referee Andrew Brace signalled half-time, however, there was another lengthy injury-induced break that ended with Argentine lock Lucas Paulos being carried off. The second row came off second best in his attempt to tackle Bok captain Duane Vermeulen.
Santiago Carreras missed two kickable penalty attempts before an Argentine movement broke down and De Klerk sent Libbok clear to score a try he converted.
When Mateo Carreras scored in the corner, brother Santiago failed to convert, leaving eight points between the teams.
That margin was reduced to a single point when Bertranou scored beside the post and Santiago Carreras converted.
Argentina and South Africa meet again next Saturday, in Buenos Aires, in a warm-up match ahead of the September 8-October 28 World Cup in France.
Man of the match: The forwards were tremendous. Eben Etzebeth playing in his 112th match scored his fifth try against Argentina. Malcolm Marx put in another good performance with his hard runs. However our nod goes to Springbok prop Steven Kitshoff, the Ulster-bound was incredible. He played like a beast and his turnover in the dying minutes of the match proved to be vital for the Boks’ victory.
For South Africa:
Tries: Etzebeth, De Allende, Libbok
Tries: Bertranou, M. Carreras
Con: S. Carreras
Pens: S. Carreras 3
Yellow card: Damian De Allende (South Africa, 72 – deliberate knockdown)
South Africa: 15 Willie le Roux, 14 Cheslin Kolbe, 13 Jesse Kriel, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Kurt-Lee Arendse, 10 Manie Libbok, 9 Grant Williams, 8 Duane Vermeulen (captain), 7 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 6 Marco van Staden, 5 Marvin Orie, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Malcolm Marx, 1 Steven Kitshoff.
Replacements: 16 Bongi Mbonambi, 17 Trevor Nyakane, 18 Vincent Koch, 19 Kwagga Smith, 20 Rudolph Snyman, 21 Francois de Klerk, 22 Lukhanyo Am, 23 Damian Willemse.
Argentina: 15 Juan Cruz Mallía, 14 Mateo Carreras, 13 Lucio Cinti, 12 Santiago Chocobares, 11 Juan Imhoff, 10 Santiago Carreras, 9 Lautaro Bazán Vélez, 8 Juan Martin Gonzalez, 7 Santiago Grondona, 6 Pablo Matera, 5 Tomas Lavanini, 4 Lucas Paulos, 3 Francisco Gomez Kodela, 2 Julian Montoya (captain), 1 Thomas Gallo.
Replacements: 16 Ignacio Ruiz, 17 Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro, 18 Joel Sclavi, 19 Pedro Rubiolo, 20 Facundo Isa, 21 Gonzalo Bertranou, 22 Tomás Albornoz, 23 Matias Moroni.
Referee: Andrew Brace (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Nika Amashukeli (Georgia) & Chris Busby (Ireland)
TMO: Joy Neville (Ireland)
*Additional Source: AFP