Clinical finishing and a superb defensive display by the Springboks powered them to the Castle Lager Rugby Championship title with a five try to one (46-13) victory over Argentina in Salta on Saturday.
Handre Pollard scored two tries and was successful with eight out of ten kicks at goal for a personal haul of 31 points as the Springboks ended a ten-year wait for the southern hemisphere’s premier rugby prize with a performance of power and increasing authority.
The bonus point win emphatically erased memories of last year’s defeat n Mendoza and completed a fine, undefeated series in the Championship for the Springboks. They took the title by four clear points from second-placed Australia.
Hooker Bongi Mbonambi and wings Makazole Mapimpi and Cheslin Kolbe also scored tries while Pollard’s haul was a new record for a Springbok against the Pumas erasing from the record books Gaffie du Toit’s 24 points in 2004.
The win was by the biggest margin (33 points) in the 17 matches under the tutelage of Director of Rugby, Rassie Erasmus, and took the team’s try tally in this year’s Championship to 11.
The Springboks will wrap up their preparations for the Rugby World Cup with a rematch against the same opposition at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday in their Farewell Test.
It was a far from perfect first half from the Springboks but they still managed to lead by 11 points at the break (24-13) as their scrum dominance dismantled the Pumas’ hopes. Handre Pollard kicked six points from scrum penalties and scored a try from a third after the Boks opted to go for the lineout two minutes before the halftime break.
A front-of-the-line move five metres out was thwarted on the right touchline but the ball was moved to the left and back to the centre through a succession of phases before Pollard surged onto the ball from eight metres out to force his way over close to the poles.
It was an impressive conclusion to the half for the Springboks who had suffered the discomfort of conceding a try in the first two minutes to fuel the excitement and noise of a packed and passionate home crowd.
Clever flyhalf Nicolas Sanchez slid through a hole in the defence to make a line break and after a number of phases received the ball once again to send a perfect cross field kick for right wing Santiago Cordero to touch down in the right hand corner.
The Springboks scored their first try from a perfectly manufactured driving maul in the left hand corner, Bongi Mbonambi coming up with the score from the driving seat, and although Pollard was wide form the touchline conversion, his earlier penalty ensured the Boks took an 8-7 lead after 11 minutes.
A first penalty for Sanchez – conceded for not retreating at a box kick – regained the lead for the Pumas in the 16th minute (10-8) but it was short-lived as successive scrum penalties conceded by the Pumas gifted Pollard six points.
Sanchez clawed three back from straight in front from a breakdown penalty but Pollard reclaimed them for another breakdown offence to make it 17-13 to the visitors with ten minutes to go to the break.
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Pollard’s try on the stroke of the interval and his fifth penalty a minute after the break put the Springboks two scores ahead at 27-13 but the job was far from done as the Pumas ratcheted up the pressure from a succession of five-metre lineouts in the right hand corner in the opening 15 minutes of the half.
The Springboks managed to force a succession of turnovers to protect their line but also conceded four penalties, the last of which led to the yellow carding of scrumhalf Faf de Klerk for entering a maul from the side.
Well done guys!! Congratulations on a splendid victory and successful campaign. pic.twitter.com/eYYWf4Xiq6— Springboks (@Springboks) August 10, 2019
It was a period of high danger for the Boks but their defensive resilience and organisation saw them manage to clear their lines and even score a third try of their own.
A clever inside pass by replacement prop Steven Kitshoff in the Pumas’ fed the galloping Franco Mostert to surge to within metres of the Pumas’ line. Pollard was equally dynamic as he hurtled up like an American Footballer to take a short pass and dive into and through two tackles on the line to touch down.
Pollard missed his conversion but the 20-point lead (32-12) looked unassailable and it only got worse for the home side as wings Makazole Mapimpi – after a fine midfield break by him had set up field position – and Cheslin Kolbe – after great interplay between Frans Steyn and Pieter-Steph du Toit – both crossed in their respective corners with Pollard converting both.
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Argentina – Try: Santiago Cordero. Conversion: Nicolas Sanchez. Penalties: Sanchez (2).
South Africa – Tries: Bongi Mbonambi, Handre Pollard (2), Makazole Mapimpi, Cheslin Kolbe. Conversions: Pollard (3). Penalties: Pollard (5)
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