The Springboks have been crowned Rugby Championship 2019 winners with an impressive 46-13 win over the Los Pumas in Salta, Buenos Aires.
South Africa last won the title in 2009 when it was the Tri-Nations.
The Springboks won, and they received two trophies to prove it – one for beating Argentina and one for winning the Rugby Championship. In both cases they were clear winners – four log points ahead of the Wallabies who were second and a positive points’ difference of 51 – compared to Australia’s positive 9, New Zealand’s negative 17 and Argentina’s negative 43. In winning the Springboks also put any possible Salta hoodoo to rest.
But the way the match started on a sunny afternoon in Salta packed ground of open stands and on a perfectly manicured field neither achievement seemed likely. The Springboks had a nightmare start, bumbling around and seven points down in two minutes.
Nicolás Sánchez kicked off to start the match, and he it was that constructed the early try, the Pumas’ only try as it turned out. It was his dummy-‘n-break that started it. He raced down the middle of the field and passed to Facundo Isa on his right, who had just one man to beat but Willie le Roux brought him down. Back the ball came to Sánchez who kicked a diagonal kick to his right where a gentle bounce gave the ball to Santiago Cordero who scored in the corner. From far out Sánchez converted and the Pumas led 7-0.
Then the Springboks set about winning the match, and they had great help from their powerful scrummaging and their adamantine defence.
There were 10 scrums in the match, and the Pumas were penalised at six of the 10. That is enormous.
In the second half the Pumas had six five-metre lineouts as they sought a try. But they got not one from the six, not even when the Springboks were down to 14 men, such was the Springbok defence. In fact in 78 minutes, the Pumas did not score a try.
Springboks scoring started with a penalty goal by Handré Pollard for that silly penalty – offside at a knock-on – and their first try gave them an 8-3 lead after 13 minutes. It was a penalty-lineout-maul try scored by hooker Bongi Mbonambi. The lead changed hands with penalties by Sánchez and then Pollard, times two.
The second time the Springboks had a five-metre lineout, Damian de Allende was close and then Pollard handed off Sánchez to score at the posts. That made the half-time score 24-13.
If the truth be told, it was a dull half of rugby with lots of kicking and little continuity
The second half was better, certainly for the Springboks who scored three more tries, repelled a series of six five-metre scrums and survived De Klerk’s yellow card for repeated infringements. Cheslin Kolbe deputised excellently at scrumhalf.
Their defence was not just at their goal-line but in general play as Pumas had no answer to their blitz defence and eventually resorted to a series of slow phases. It was also a half of many substitutions.
The first try of the half came after a telling break by Pollard brought him close to the line. The Springboks bashed till Pollard swept over for the try, which was followed by a missed sitter of a conversion.
Left wing Makazole Mapimpi’s energy paid off. He had a run on the right wing to set up a Springbok attack and then when they went wide left he was the one to score in the corner. Pollard converted from touch.
Kolbe, back on the right wing, scored the next try when Frans Steyn broke and Pieter-Steph du Toit lobbed him a pass. 46-13 after 67 minutes.
The Springboks were clearly a happy band of brothers as they came onto the field for the presentation by the president of the Argentina Rugby Union, Marcelo Rodríguez.
They take lots of team spirit and confidence on to Japan’s World Cup.
Pens: Sanchez 2
For South Africa:
Tries: Mbonambi, Pollard 2, Mapimpi, Kolbe
Cons: Pollard 3
Pens: Pollard 5
Emiliano Boffelli, 14 Santiago Cordero, 13 Matías Moroni, 12 Jerónimo
de la Fuente, 11 Ramiro Moyano, 10 Nicolás Sánchez, 9 Tomás Cubelli, 8
Facundo Isa, 7 Javier Ortega Desio, 6 Pablo Matera, 5 Marcos Kremer, 4
Matías Alemanno, 3 Juan Figallo, 2 Agustín Creevy, 1 Nahuel Tetaz
Replacements: 16 Julian Montoya, 17 Mayco Vivas, 18 Santiago Medrano, 19 Guido Petti, 20 Tomás Lezana, 21 Gonzalo Bertranou, 22 Benjamin Urdapilleta, 23 Joaquín Tuculet.
South Africa: 15
Willie le Roux, 14 Cheslin Kolbe, 13 Lukhanyo Am, 12 Damian de Allende,
11 Makazole Mapimpi, 10 Handré Pollard, 9 Francois de Klerk, 8 Duane
Vermeulen (captain),7 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 6 Kwagga Smith, 5 Franco
Mostert, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Trevor Nyakane, 2 Mbongeni Mbonambi, 1
Replacements: 16 Malcolm Marx, 17 Steven Kitshoff, 18 Frans Malherbe, 19 Rudolph Snyman, 20 Francois Louw, 21 Herschel Jantjies, 22 Frans Steyn, 23 Jesse Kriel
Referee: Romain Poite (France)
Assistant referees: Matthew Carley (England), Karl Dickson (England)
TMO: Rowan Kitt (England)