South Africa scored nine tries and flyhalf Morne Steyn kicked 28 points as they crushed Argentina 73-13 on Saturday in a Rugby Championship first-round romp.
The triumph against rivals who had two forwards sin-binned took the Springboks to the top of the table on points difference after world champions New Zealand won 47-29 in Australia earlier in the day.
It also created two Springboks records, with the winning margin bettering the 63-9 triumph in Johannesburg five years ago and the 86 match points eight more than in Springs, South Africa, 11 years ago.
Topping off a great day for South Africa was their first win at Soccer City in Soweto, where they lost twice to the All Blacks in previous appearances.
The Test took a decisive turn on the half-hour mark when Pumas hooker Eusebio Guinazu was yellow-carded and South Africa scored 14 points in four minutes en route to a 26-6 halftime lead.
Demoralized Argentina collapsed in the second half as the hosts scored a further seven tries, before Contepomi claimed a final-minute consolation try.
The match was the highlight of Nelson Mandela Sport Day, an inaugural event in honor of the hospitalized former president that also featured the national soccer team.
Springboks skipper and center Jean de Villiers refused to get carried away after a victory margin far wider than even the most optimistic South Africa fan had predicted.
“We played well at times, but there is plenty to work on. We are evolving as a team and taking more scoring opportunities. I guess it is hard to complain after scoring 73 points. I believe we put a smile on the face of Madiba [Mandela’s clan name] today, and we dedicate this triumph to him and all South Africans,” De Villiers said.
Argentina center and skipper Felipe Contepomi said: “South Africa were magnificent today and once they got on the front foot it was impossible to stop them.”
“We are grateful to be playing the three best rugby nations in this Championship and I hope we can do much better when the Springboks play in Argentina next weekend,” he added.
A couple of successful penalty kicks from Steyn inside the first 10 minutes gave the Springboks a six-point lead and soothed the nerves after an error-strewn start.
Argentina were struggling at the lineouts and suffered a major blow when experienced lock Patricio Albacete limped off to be replaced by Julio Farias Cabello.
Contepomi got the Pumas on the scoreboard with a couple of penalties and there was also another from Steyn to leave South Africa 9-6 ahead on 30 minutes.
Guinazu was then yellow-carded for a deliberate knock-on, which earned the Springboks a penalty try, and center J.J. Engelbrecht ran on to a Willie le Roux chip for another five pointer.
Steyn converted both scores and within four minutes the Springboks were 17 points ahead against opponents forced to play the rest of the opening half a man short.
Argentina were struggling to get out of their half and conceding frequent penalties, one of which Steyn booted over to give the Springboks a 20-point halftime cushion.
It took just six minutes of the second half for South Africa to push further ahead as hooker Adriaan Strauss broke from a driving maul and dotted down for Steyn to convert.
The Pumas, who proved competitive in their maiden Rugby Championship last year, fell apart and the yellow-carding of No. 8 Leonardo Senatore for a tip tackle spelled disaster.
Flank Willem Alberts scored the bonus-point fourth try and De Villiers, scrumhalf Fourie du Preez, left wing Bryan Habana, No. 8 Duane Vermeulen and replacement hooker Bismarck du Plessis also dotted down.
Steyn missed only one of the conversions as he lifted his personal tally to 28 points and a nine-point lead over Australia’s Christian Leali’ifano in the individual scoring charts.
Contepomi, leading the team in the absence of injured No. 8 Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe, went over in the final minute for the lone Argentina try, which he converted.
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