‘Scrappy’ Springboks avoid shock upset
SOUTH Africa scored four tries in the second half to come from behind and beat Argentina 34-21 in the Rugby Championship on Saturday, avoiding a second straight surprise defeat to the Pumas in Durban.
The Springboks scored first but trailed 14-5 and 14-10 at half-time after Argentina hit back with tries by flyhalf Nicolas Sanchez and flanker Pablo Matera at Kings Park, where the Argentines won their first Test over South Africa in a big shock in 2015.
This time, South Africa avoided the upset with three tries and 17 unanswered points in the first 15 minutes of the second half, with wingers Aphiwe Dyantyi and Makazole Mapimpi each completing a double.
South Africa dominated territory throughout but wasted opportunities in attack and was sloppy again with 13 minutes left to gift Argentina centre Matias Moroni an intercept try. The Pumas were just a converted try behind and in striking range at 27-21.
Scrumhalf Faf de Klerk's snipe from close range, the sixth try for the Boks, put the game beyond doubt and gave coach Rassie Erasmus a winning start in the Rugby Championship.
"I think for the first 25 minutes of the second half we were OK," Erasmus said. "But out of the 80 (minutes), that was the only 25 that was really good. Apart from that, we were scrappy."
South Africa's bonus-point victory matched defending champion New Zealand's six-try, 38-13 win over Australia earlier Saturday to open the Rugby Championship.
The Springboks also had lock Eben Etzebeth back in action after an eight-month injury absence and No. 8 Warren Whiteley returned for his first Test in more than a year.
Erasmus has three wins from five Tests since taking over the Springboks this season. He beat England 2-1 in a home series in June but his progress will be judged when South Africa faces Australia and, ultimately, the top-ranked All Blacks later in the Rugby Championship.
Argentina's coach was also in charge of his first game in the championship, with Mario Ledesma having far less time to prepare his team after taking over the Pumas at the start of this month.
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