Dyantyi, Mapimpi power Springboks to victory over Argentina
The Springboks got their Rugby Championship campaign off the ground but they failed to soar against a typically belligerent, and at times, bellicose Los Pumas on Saturday.
The Boks got the job done thanks to six tries but they will look back at this match with several areas in which they can tighten up.
They rarely fired as a collective but there were some stand out performances.
Scrumhalf Faf de Klerk again underlined his value to the Bok cause with another livewire performance. Two of his incisive plays paved the way for tries in the second half which helped give the Boks a buffer they held on to until the end.
His pin point box kicks, the speed with which he clears the ruck, and his intuitive link play all contributed to a compelling performance. The Boks will miss him when he returns to his club Sale Sharks.
For De Klerk to weave his magic however, the door needs to be kicked open and no-one removed it more off its hinges more than lock Eben Etzebeth. Questions were raised about his match fitness in the build-up to this clash after he was sidelined for the last eight months.
The last time he played was in December last year when he injured his shoulder against Wales at the Principality Stadium. He provided an unequivocal answer on Saturday with a towering performance in the Bok second row. Etzebeth hit the deck running and he invariably dragged an Argentinian or two with him. He also proved a colossus in the line-outs.
Tries either side of the break by Aphiwe Dyantyi helped reel in the Pumas who ran into a 14-5 lead by the 27th minute. He even passed on the opportunity to complete a hat trick when he unselfishly offloaded to Makazole Mapimpi to score in the 54th minute.
Earlier, after unrelenting pressure centre Lukhanyo Am sped onto a pass and barged his way over through sheer determination.
The Boks however struggled to assert themselves in the first half clutter. The Pumas’ rush defence meant the Boks had little time on the ball which made for hurried imprecise passing.
In the first half their game was devoid of continuity as Argentina proved disrupters at the breakdown. Flank Pablo Matera proved a handful, but to be fair the visitors were resolute in holding their defensive line.
It didn’t help either that the Boks relinquished positions of promise, like the lost line-out five metres out in the 23rd minute.
The hosts also played with indecent haste, looking for maximum gains when the bite sized options looked more prudent. Eschewing opportunities at goal, but then again, Handre Pollard’s kicking hardly instilled confidence. He missed all three his attempts at goal in the first half.
Opposite him, the unflappable Nicolás Sanchez looked composed and incisive. He teased the Bok defence with a variety of options and it was just reward when he scored the tourists’ first try in the 16th minute.
The visitors, at times, were wonderfully enterprising but eventually the Boks started to boss the collisions and with it the scoreboard.
This however was a poorly attended Test. Whether this relic of a stadium should again host a Rugby Championship Test is a question SA Rugby’s blazer wearers need to interrogate.