The Springboks’ startling naivety on attack and a disjointed, error-ridden defensive effort out wide proved a lethal combo as they were handed a resounding 32-19 Rugby Championship loss at the hands of Argentina in Mendoza on Saturday night.
It was only the Boks’ second defeat on Pumas soil but by far the biggest – more comprehensive than 2016’s 24-26 reverse in Salta.
After starting on a high to lead 7-3 after 15 minutes following skipper Siya Kolisi’s barnstorming run, the Boks lost the plot completely to concede 29 unanswered points as they were physically and defensively outclassed while also being outnumbered at the breakdowns.
Their majority possession after the break saw them stage a semblance of a comeback, with replacement wing Lionel Mapoe scoring twice but it was never going to be enough.
The result leaves South Africa with a mountain of work to do in preparation for their trip to the Antipodes.
Who was the star in this match?
Argentinian flyhalf Nicholas Sanchez was the key, scoring 17 of the points in the first 40 minutes as well as dotting down for one of the four tries. More importantly, his sheer composure and the variety of his play illustrated again why he’s considered one of the best.
Key moments and themes
- The Boks seemed to have weathered an early storm with Kolisi’s try, which was notable for the flanker’s pace as well as the nimble passing skills of lock Eben Etzebeth.
- But it all started going wrong for the Boks when Pumas wing Bautista Delguy scored a brace of tries in the 19th and 24th minute. On both occasions South Africa’s longstanding weakness on defence in the wider channels was exposed, a problem that was evident in June already against England.
- It went from bad to worse for the Boks when Etzebeth was yellow carded in the 25th minute for a professional foul. It was cynical, perhaps even unforgivable moment of madness from a senior player. Sanchez promptly exploited the one-man advantage and, in hindsight, that was the one try that could’ve been avoided and kept the visitors in sight.
- The Boks generally seemed to go up a notch when a string of replacements came on. But by that time some of the key men who stayed on were so flustered that their impatience undermined much of the headway the fresh legs made. Handling errors and poor passes were made, while the lineout went bust in the closing stages when it really needed to function.
Argentinia – Tries: Bautista Delguy (2), Nicholas Sanchez, Ramiro Moyano. Conversions: Sanchez (3). Penalty: Sanchez. Drop Goal: Sanchez.
South Africa – Tries: Siya Kolisi, Lionel Mapoe (2). Conversions: Handre Pollard (2).