South Africa was fortunate to salvage a 16-16 draw on Saturday in the Rugby Championship, and Argentina was unlucky not to record its first victory against the Springboks after 14 straight losses.
“There were a bunch of small errors that cost us the game,” said Argentina’s Santiago Fernandez, who scored a try for the Pumas in the first half. “They [South Africa] capitalized and we have to learn from this, but this team is together and getting better all the time.”
Argentina applied pressure throughout the match, harassing South Africa’s forwards and spoiling their possession. The Pumas played as a unit, and South Africa could not find a way to break down the organized South Americans.
Only a lucky break near the end saved the Springboks.
“Definitely not good enough,” South Africa coach Heyneke Meyer said. “We let our country down, we let ourselves down and it’s not acceptable.”
“They [South Africa players] showed some sort of character to come back from 13-3,” Meyer added. “There’s no excuses and each player knows that.”
Martin Rodriguez scored three penalties and a conversion for the home side, and Fernandez scored a try for the Pumas in the 16th minute to build the lead to 10-0 en route to a 13-3 lead at halftime.
South Africa got three penalties and a conversion from Morne Steyn, while Frans Steyn added a late try. Morne Steyn missed a penalty in the 74th minute that would have given the Springboks the edge.
South Africa defeated Argentina 27-6 on Aug. 18 in Cape Town in Argentina’s first match in the championship.
This time around the tournament debutants came a lot closer to a victory.
Argentina missed a drop goal in the 64th that would have made it difficult for South Africa to come back.
Two minutes later, Frans Steyn blocked a kick, recovered the loose ball and ran it down for a try with Morne Steyn adding the conversion. The try came as South Africa was struggling to maintain possession.
“They were committed, but we can only blame ourselves for this result,” South Africa captain Jean de Villier said. “We had opportunities, but didn’t capitalize. We need to take a hard look at ourselves.”
South African lock Andries Bekker was asked if the Springboks underestimated Argentina, which is stepping up a notch in joining South Africa, New Zealand and Australia in the new tournament that takes the place of the former Tri-Nations.
“No, I think it was all bad execution on our side. On the day we weren’t good enough,” he said.
The mood at Estadio Malvinas Argentinas was mostly upbeat.
“It was an improvement [from Cape Town], but we are disappointed,” Argentina captain Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe said. “We made a step forward so we are happy.”
“We wanted to win,” he added. “We are disappointed right now, but we are going to remember this day for the rest of our lives, our first game at home in the Rugby Championship.”