In a Test that failed to reach any significant heights, the Springboks’ fringe players had to dig deep to beat Argentina 24-18 at Loftus on Saturday night.
At least they kept their momentum and go unbeaten into the World Cup.
It was a game that was difficult to watch from a spectator point of view, especially in the first half, when both teams struggled to beat their opponents’ defensive lines and referee Luke Pearce from England making turns to blow the teams up on the ground.
In the end, it was the determination and skill of right wing Sbu Nkosi that settled the contest.
Who was the star in this match?
Nkosi was outstanding. His first try, after some great hands and passing from pivot Elton Jantjies and lock Lood de Jager, required nous to finish. But it was his second that was special. Attacking the blindside, the 22-year-old simply refused to believe that three Puma defenders would stop him, audaciously crossing the line. He also made a vital tackle in the final minute that prevented a last ditch Argentinian attack.
Key moments and themes
- National coach Rassie Erasmus’ biggest objective in this match was to grant regular captain Siya Kolisi game-time. He managed to put in a 52-minute shift that was highly encouraging. Kolisi swivelled brilliantly out of two tackles with his first carry and in general stood out during a poor first half.
- Scrumhalf Cobus Reinach’s nifty linebreak was the catalyst for the Boks’ first points – a penalty to Jantjies – in the 19th minute. It also illustrated that the home side was probably trying to be too expansive for such an experimental combination.
- Reinach turned villain just before the halftime whistle when he telegraphed a cut-out pass to Puma lock Guido Petti, allowing the visitors to gain a 10-8 lead at the break and laying the foundation for them constantly staying in contention.
- The Boks looked destined for an agonising defeat after a quickfire counter-attack saw Jeronimo de la Fuente, Argentina’s outside centre, cross the line with four minutes to go. But the TMO ruled that Bok prop Vince Koch was obstructed from tackling replacement Benjamin Upitapilleta, who launched the initial kick. It was debatable though whether Koch would’ve gotten there anyway. Instead, Jantjies nailed the match-winning kick. However, that decision was perhaps justice for Pablo Matera’s try, where ref Pearce missed him being in front of the kick that led to Reinach’s foul play.
- The unlucky Marcell Coetzee, who looked accomplished upon his return to the starting line-up, failed his concussion test following a clash of heads. It robbed him of an opportunity to stake a World Cup claim, though it’s not necessarily a death knell to his chances. His replacement, Kwagga Smith, was busy.
Springboks – Tries: Sbu Nkosi (2). Conversion: Elton Jantjies. Penalties: Jantjies (4).
Argentina – Tries: Guido Petti, Pablo Matera. Conversion: Joaquin Diaz Bonilla. Penalties: Diaz Bonilla, Benjamin Upitapiletta.