South Africa

Springboks edge Los Pumas: Five key takeaways

The Springboks ended the Rugby Championship on a high with a win over Argentina at Ellis Park on Saturday night, but they were made to work incredibly hard for the positive result as the game finished 22-21 in the hosts favour.

It was a far from vintage performance and probably not what the home crowd was hoping to see in the team’s final game in SA before the World Cup, but the Boks got the job done in the end as the visitors ran in two tries in the final five minutes to finish just short.

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Here are five key takeaways from the tight win:

A tale of two charge downs

The early stage of the match was highlighted by two charge downs, of which the Boks came off second best with both. The first was straight off the kick-off which saw scrumhalf Grant Williams trying to clear the ball, only for it to be charged down by an Argentinean player, who also knocked out Williams in the process, which sadly saw the player stretchered off on his first start.

The second was from the restart after Argentina slotted an early penalty. This time Bok centre Jesse Kriel charged down Argentine flyhalf Santiago Carreras attempted exit, but couldn’t regather the ball as he knocked on over the tryline allowing the visitors to clear through a goal line drop out.

Boks hit their stride

It was a quiet start to the match for the Boks, possibly due to the unfortunate early injury to Grant Williams, which allowed Argentina to go 6-0 within 10 minutes. But once fyhalf Manie Libbok got them on the board with a penalty in the 11th minute the Boks started hitting their stride.

Lock Eben Etzebeth powered over flyhalf Santiago Carreras for the first try in the 18th minute, while the unfamiliar figure of inside centre Damian de Allende at the back of a monster Bok maul in the 25th minute saw him break off to score their second.  That gave the Boks a 15-6 lead after 27 minutes, which became 15-9 by the halftime break.

Massive breakdown defence

The Springboks put in a massive shift at the breakdown over the match, but it was three key turnovers on their own tryline that proved crucial in the contest. The first two came in the first half after both of their tries, with hooker Malcolm Marx in the thick of things to effect the first turnover, while it was prop Steven Kitshoff claiming the second.

In the second half with just over 25 minutes to play Los Pumas were again right on the Boks tryline and it was Kitshoff the hero again as he claimed his second massive turnover of the game. The superb breakdown work was integral in not allowing Argentina to get back in front.

Carreras boot goes cold

Argentina flyhalf Santiago Carreras saw his boot go cold after a solid first half performance. Three penalties over the first 40 minutes kept the visitors well in the match as they trailed by less than a converted try at halftime.

But the second half saw three big misses, two of which were penalties, the first from the halfway line but straight in front, with the ball drifting to the left of the uprights.

The second was from towards the right hand touchline but closer in, with him again off the mark. If Carreras had slotted both kicks Los Pumas would have been level at 15-all going into the last quarter of the match.

Right wing Mateo Carreras then scored Argentina’s first try of the match in the 75th minute, only for the flyhalf to miss the important resultant conversion attempt which kept his side more than a converted try behind and proved extremely costly as they only lost by one point in the end.

Manie’s moment

Springbok flyhalf Manie Libbok scored the all-important third try for the Boks in the second half which pushed them ahead and gave them enough breathing room to see out the rest of the match.

Having struggled to add to their halftime score while defending their slim six point lead that they had taken into the break, Libbok then ran in what proved to be the winning seven pointer in the 68th minute.

With Argentina on attack in the Bok half they dropped the ball, allowing replacement scrumhalf Faf de Klerk to pick up the ball and scorch away, before he smartly offloaded to the faster man Libbok in support, allowing him to run away and score in the corner, with him converting his own try for a 22-9 lead.