The Springboks were unconvincing as they secured a narrow win over Argentina in Saturday’s Rugby Championship clash at Ellis Park.
It was far from convincing but the Springboks arm-wrestled to a 22-21 win over a dogged Argentina to gain a semblance of momentum towards the encroaching World Cup.
It was the Boks’ last match on home soil and now it is an away match to the Pumas next week and then friendlies with Wales and New Zealand before the Boks start their World Cup defence with a Pool game against Scotland on September 10.
A boisterous crowd of 50 000 found their voice shortly before kick-off when a host of Springbok heroes of yesteryear took to the field and formed a guard of honour for the current Boks when they emerged from the tunnel.
However, an enemy of the Springboks could hardly have scripted a worse start to the match. The kick-off from the Pumas drifted deep into the Springbok 22 where it was fumbled by Grant Williams and in the process his head was whiplashed into the Ellis Park turf.
The unfortunate scrumhalf’s game was over with 15 seconds of the kick-off, and from the resulting territory, the Pumas won a penalty for flyhalf Santiago Carreras to nudge over. The Argentineans cashed in on the strong start when Carreras kicked a beauty from 50m out and on the angle.
It was at 12 minutes that the Boks registered their first points, a regulation three points by Manie Libbok from a penalty won in front of the posts.
A nervy first quarter for the Boks ended on a fine note when a period of pressure in the Pumas’ 22 culminated in Willie le Roux swinging a long pass out to Eben Etzebeth at the touchline, where he ploughed through Carreras for the score.
If Etzebeth was posing as a back in scoring that try, the next Bok score came from Damian de Allende impersonating Malcolm Marx at the back of a ruck.
South Africa overcome the stubborn Pumas to end the Rugby Championship on a high note 🇿![CDATA]>🇦— SuperSport Rugby (@SSRugby) July 29, 2023
The best possible send off for Jacques Nienaber ahead of #RWC2023 📷![CDATA]>💪 pic.twitter.com/V4lbnjZERP
The Boks looked to be pulling away at 15-6 on the half-hour mark but the Pumas hung in and the boot of Carreras kicked the last points of the half.
The third quarter of the match saw both sides come within inches of scoring but it was a night when defence trumped attack.
The plot thickened when the Pumas spurned a penalty in front of the posts for a kick to the corner on 60 minutes but the Boks stopped the maul and won a turnover.
This was a stage of the game where the visitors were winning a succession of penalties and Carerras had a stab from a long way out but missed. The Pumas had the momentum so it came as a massive relief for the Boks when they scrambled the match-winning try when a Pumas backline movement broke down out wide.
Faf de Klerk scooped up the loose ball and fed it to Libbok who scampered 50m for an against-the-run-of-play score.
The Argentineans hit back with a good finish in the corner by right wing Rodrigo Isgro. The conversion was missed to give the Boks breathing space at 22-14.
The Pumas scored with the last movement of the game to give the score line a perspective that will keep the Boks honest as they approach next week’s game in Buenos Aries.
Springboks 22 — Tries: Eben Etzebeth, Damian de Allende, Manie Libbok. Conversions: Manie Libbok (2). Penalties: Libbok
Pumas 21 — Try: Rodrigo Isgro, Gonzalo Grondona. Penalties: Santiago Carreras (3). Conversion: Carreras