December 11, 2013
Pumas lose to Springboks at home
By Frankie Deges
For The Herald
Two late penalties by Morne Steyn gave South Africa their second consecutive victory in the Rugby Championship as they beat Argentina 22-17 in Mendoza in a game that was a lot closer than the record win over the Pumas last weekend.
MENDOZA — Los Pumas confused their critics with a performance that warmed the hearts, if not the bodies, at a cold Malvinas Argentinas stadium in Mendoza. In seven days, they reduced the points deficit from 60 to five points by only losing 22-17, scoring two tries and performing to a Rugby Championship standard. They secured their first tournament point and are currently third after two rounds.
The build-up had been far from ideal with a lot of mending to do inside the Pumas camp after what had been a bad first round, in which they were humbled 73-13 in Soweto, South Africa.
“We are back on track; it was a player’s issue and for us as a team to show character,” said captain Felipe Contepomi. “I am not worried about winning at this stage because I know wins will come.”
First blood came so soon that it shocked supporters and opponents. A lineout close to the Springbok goal-line saw Los Pumas throw to the second position and Juan Manuel Leguizamón going around the front to score on the right hand. Contepomi added the extra points with the most angled of conversions. The Springboks were surprised and hurt but managed to open the score with a Morné Steyn penalty soon after.
Although Los Pumas were being pushed in the scrums and seemed unable to control the ball, Contepomi, again, stretched the lead to 10-3.
South Africa pounded on a Pumas mistake for their first try. After a series of attacks stopped by a hardened Pumas defence, Contepomi intercepted and tried to kick but was tackled on the same split second; the ball went lose and it led to another attack that put flanker François Louw in for the try. Steyn’s conversion meant a temporary draw at 10.
Almost on the half hour mark, the Springboks tried to force their way and from the same lineout maul that a week ago had produced four tries, were pushed back some 20 yards. Something certainly changed in seven days.
A second Pumas try was born, again, from the hunger of a side intent on turning a page. Marcelo Bosch scored a converted try, but it was a team effort, after more than five phases. Rather than going to the break at 17-10, a late penalty allowed the Boks to reduce the lead by three points, and in the fourth minute of the second half, they further reduced it to one point, again Steyn infallible with his boot.
Steyn, on the same ground on which he had won the U21 World Championship in 2005, took the lead in the 71st minute after prop Marcos Ayerza was found off-side. The following minutes until the final whistle were so slow it hurt. Argentina never managed to see sufficient ball as stop-start reduced any continuity or attacking opportunities.
Playing percentage rugby, the Springboks were given a last second penalty when Agulla was offside and Steyn closed down the curtain with his fifth penalty for the 22-17 win.
Yesterday’s game might be drawn into controversy because of an alleged bite to the arm of Springbok lock Eben Etzebeh in the 61st minute. The incident will be analyzed by the Citing Commissioner.
“It was an unfortunate incident. Eben had teeth marks in his arm but it is for others to follow now,” said Springbok captain Jean de Villiers.