South Africa 22
Argentina came within a whisker of another big upset, forcing South Africa to cling on for a 22-21 victory to end the Rugby Championship.
Argentina trailed the world champions 15-9 at halftime but controlled the entire second half and threatened to follow up their victory in Australia two weeks ago with a first win on the Highveld in South Africa.
The crucial moment came when South Africa first-five Manie Libbok scored a breakaway try in the 69th minute after Argentina threw a loose pass while on the attack deep in Springboks territory.
Halfback Faf de Klerk scooped up the ball and fed Libbok, who motored 80 metres to give South Africa enough of a cushion at 22-9 — but only just.
Argentina still scored the last two tries at Ellis Park, although they only came in the dying minutes despite all the Pumas’ dominance in the second 40.
“Against a team like this, if you don’t take opportunities, then they make points,” said Argentina captain Julian Montoya. “Credit to them.”
South Africa went down to 14 men for the last eight minutes of the game at Ellis Park when centre Damian de Allende was given a yellow card for intentionally knocking a pass down. The rest of the game saw Argentina attacking relentlessly and the Springboks relying on last-gasp defence to hold out.
Argentina’s first try came in the 75th minute through right wing Mateo Carreras as pressure finally created gaps out wide. That narrowed it to 22-14. Argentina finally broke through again, but the fulltime hooter had gone by the time replacement halfback Gonzalo Bertranou darted round a ruck to score near the posts. The converted try wasn’t quite enough.
South Africa hardly celebrated the tight victory in their last game at home before their World Cup defence in France starts in September.
“It didn’t really work for us but we walk away with a win and we can just say thank you for that,” said South Africa captain Duane Vermeulen.
The win saw South Africa finish second in the Rugby Championship above Argentina. South Africa and Argentina meet again in a week in Argentina in a World Cup warm-up game that will start the Springboks’ final preparations. They will also face Wales and New Zealand before heading to France.
South Africa coach Jacques Nienaber claimed some positives in that the Springboks’ defence was severely tested and just about held up.
“We had a proper defence session,” said Nienaber.
Argentina led 6-0 through the boot of Santiago Carreras but should have had more from their promising start. South Africa pulled themselves together long enough for lock Eben Etzebeth to score the first try of the game in the 19th minute. De Allende added the Boks’ second from a lineout maul, where half of the South African backline joined the maul to help propel it toward the Argentina line, and de Allende broke off at the end to dive over.
Carreras kicked three from three at goal in the first half but missed two penalties in the second half that might have made the difference.
South Africa got the win, but it wasn’t nearly the convincing performance they hoped for to start their final run-in to the World Cup.
“There’s still some work to be done,” Vermeulen said.