Rugby championshipSunday, August 17, 2014
Springbroks edge Pumas with early try
South Africa laboured to a 13-6 win over Argentina in a game spoiled by driving rain and a water-soaked field on the opening day of the Rugby Championship.
PRETORIA — A first minute try from Ruan Pienaar proved decisive as South Africa beat Argentina 13-6 in yesterday’s rain-affected Rugby Championship test at Loftus Versfeld to record a winning start to the annual four-nation competition.
Pienaar’s early score suggested a possible repeat of last year’s runaway 73-13 home win for the Springboks over the Pumas but a heavy downpour turned this year’s opening match for both countries into an unattractive contest.
Handling errors and testy exchanges dominated the rest of the game as the converted try proved the difference with Handre Pollard and his replacement Morne Steyn both contributing a penalty while Nicolás Sánchez slotted over two of his own for the Pumas.
A darting break from Pienaar from the first scrum saw him flip the ball right to winger Cornal Hendricks who played a pass back inside for the scrumhalf to race away and score. South Africa’s 20-year-old flyhalf Pollard, winning his second cap, converted to set pulses racing.
“It was a great start to the game but not a great start to the competition,” said South Africa captain Jean de Villiers.
Sánchez kicked a seventh minute penalty for Argentina’s first points, but the seven-point gap was restored 10 minutes later by Pollard as South Africa went into the break 10-3 up.
By halftime the match had denigrated into a scrappy affair as both teams failed to take command of a slippery ball and were unable to show any continuity on a soaking wet pitch, with lashing rain and occasional hail falling from the skies.
A kicking game ensued in the second half with Sánchez slotting a second penalty to make it 10-6 early on before Steyn, who came on for Pollard, kicked over the game’s final score in the 50th minute.
The final half-hour increasingly became a battle of attrition as South Africa went in search of more points.
They were more than matched by Argentina in the scrums and driving play, however, but the visitors paid a heavy price for making too many errors at key moments.
“We have a feeling we are gaining more and more respect with each passing game because today we put South Africa under a lot of pressure and could have tied the game in the last minute,” said Sánchez. “We are really disappointed because I think we were really close to a result and let it escape.”
In Sydney, Australia and New Zealand opened the Rugby Championship with a 12-12 draw on a sodden night at Sydney’s Olympic Stadium, a result which denied New Zealand a record 18th consecutive test win.
Wallabies flyhalf Kurtley Beale and Aaron Cruden kicked four penalties apiece in the Bledisloe Cup match as the wet and greasy conditions stifled expansive play and ended New Zealand’s quest to beat the 17-match winning streak set by its All Blacks predecessors from 1965 to 1969 and South Africa in 1997-98.
New Zealand started strongly but ill-discipline saw two players yellow carded by South African referee Jaco Peyper, allowing the Wallabies to get a foothold in the match, as it searched for only its third win against the All Blacks in the past 20 matches.
Yesterday’s draw was the second deadlocked match between the trans-Tasman rivals in the past two years, after an 18-18 draw in Brisbane in 2012.
“It feels a bit like a loss,” Wallabies captain Michael Hooper said. “To get that pressure there at the end and to get the chance but not come out on top, guys in the changing room are a bit down.”
Herald staff with agencies