South Africa 32-12 Argentina: Much-changed Springboks show strength in depth

By Sports Desk August 14, 2021

Jaden Hendrikse scored a late debut try as a much-changed South Africa side started their Rugby Championship campaign with a 32-12 win over Argentina.

Jacques Nienaber made 10 alterations to his starting line-up following a series-clinching win over the British and Irish Lions last weekend, but the Springboks were too strong for the Pumas.

Cobus Reinach raced away for a sublime breakaway try and Aphelele Fassi finished clinically in the first half for the world champions at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium on Saturday.

Elton Jantjies scored 17 points with the boot to keep South Africa in command and Hendrikse came off the bench to go over in the closing stages.

Argentina could only muster four Nicolas Sanchez penalties as the Springboks made it 10 wins in their past 11 Tests in their first Rugby Championship match since winning the 2019 tournament.

Reinach capitalised on a loose pass to dart away from inside his own half and score a superb try that was brilliantly converted by Jantjies, who had opened the scoring with a penalty.

Sanchez got the Pumas on the board from the tee, but wing Fassi showed great hands to keep a clever kick from Jantjies in and crossed in the left corner following a juggling act.

South Africa were bossing the forward battle and went in at the break with a 21-9 lead after two penalties apiece from the livewire Jantjies and Sanchez.

The trusty boot of Sanchez reduced the deficit to nine points early in the second half, but Jantjies responded by sending another two kicks sailing between the posts.

Backs saw little of the ball in a bruising battle and Fassi had what he thought was his second try of the match ruled out, as Malcolm Marx played the ball on the ground in an earlier passage of play.

Hendrikse put the icing on the cake when he went over in the corner following a powerful run from Marco van Staden.

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    Gregor Townsend praised Scotland for bouncing back emphatically from their South Africa defeat to score 19 tries in back-to-back victories over Tonga and Romania and set up a World Cup Pool B shootout with Ireland for a place in the quarter-finals.

    The Scots have been playing must-win rugby since losing their opener to the Boks, and after beating Tonga 45-17 last weekend, they pulled off another bonus-point win by defeating Romania 84-0 in Lille on Saturday.

    The past two results mean Townsend’s team now have a chance to qualify for the last eight if they defeat Ireland in Paris next Saturday night either with a bonus point or by denying Andy Farrell’s side a losing bonus.

    “I’m really pleased with the way they’ve bounced back,” said the head coach. “A lot of hard work has gone in at training. We had a two-week break between South Africa and Tonga and we had three very tough, physical sessions in the heat.

    “The players trained really well this week as well so they’re putting in the hard yards that is required to then play at a level where you can score the amount of tries we’ve scored in the last two games, where we’ve been able to set up this shootout game with Ireland.

    “The credit goes to the players for how they’ve worked in training and in the matches against Tonga and Romania. Both games were very physical and you’ve got to win that physical battle, which we did.”

    Darcy Graham climbed from sixth on Scotland’s all-time try-scoring list to joint-second by touching down four times in the 12-try romp against Romania. The Edinburgh wing leapfrogged Duhan van der Merwe and Chris Paterson and is now level with Ian Smith and Tony Stanger on 24, just three shy of record-holder Stuart Hogg.

    “I think he’s someone who will create opportunities to score tries because of his willingness to get on the ball,” said Townsend. “He called a lot of the balls because he got back off the ground to be in position.

    “He saw space and he also is a great finisher. His footwork for the fourth try was incredible. He had a couple of assists as well, so he certainly plays for the team.

    “In the last two games, Darcy’s really gone for it and we’ve seen that in training. Sometimes it’s tough when you’re a winger and you’ve not had the game time he would have liked after he picked up that little niggle over the summer but he’s now flying and that’s brilliant to see.”

    Graham was one of only a few first-choice players to start against Romania as Townsend made 13 changes with Ireland in mind. The head coach was pleased with the way his back-ups performed against the eastern European minnows.

    “I thought the way the players applied themselves, to be given that opportunity you could see they wanted to go and grab it,” he said.

    “It has been a tough time for a lot of these players, to not play. Some of them have not played since our first World Cup warm-up game against Italy.

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    Graham, who started the evening on 20 international tries, wreaked the most damage on the eastern European minnows as his first-half hat-trick and another after the break took him ahead of both Duhan van der Merwe and Chris Paterson and up to 24.

    The prolific Edinburgh wing is now level with Tony Stanger and Ian Smith, and just three shy of record-holder and fellow Hawick native Stuart Hogg, who recently ended his career on 27.

    The Scots were so confident of getting the result they required at Stade Pierre Mauroy that they made 13 changes from the side that started against Tonga the previous Sunday, preserving most of their A-listers for the Ireland match in Paris which they must win with a bonus point or by denying their opponents one in order to reach the quarter-finals.

    There was no danger of the decision to field so many fringe men back-firing from the moment Hamish Watson got the Scots off and running with the first try of the match in the eighth minute.

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    Ali Price – like Watson, another 2021 British and Irish Lions squad member who has become a peripheral player for the national team this year – got the second in the 17th minute after being played in by Graham.

    It was Graham’s turn to get on the scoresheet just four minutes later when he touched down following a brilliant individual run, bringing him level with his Edinburgh team-mate Van der Merwe, one of those given the night off.

    Romania – already bang up against it – completely imploded in the closing 10 minutes of the first half when they had three players sin-binned and conceded a further three tries.

    Hooker Robert Irimescu was yellow-carded for a high tackle on Ben Healy and just a couple of minutes later they were reduced to 13, when back-rower Florian Rosu was yellow-carded for collapsing a maul.

    Scotland took full advantage as Graham scored his second of the evening to move ahead of Van der Merwe and level with Paterson.

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    The scores kept coming after the break, with Chris Harris, Smith, Healy, Johnny Matthews – shortly after coming on for his debut – and Darge all touching down.

    Graham then raced over for his fourth of the night as the Scots ran up their second-highest win at a World Cup, finishing just five points shy of the 89-0 victory they enjoyed against Ivory Coast in 1995.

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    “It’s incredibly sad news – again. I can’t imagine how those guys are feeling. Alex Mitchell’s brother plays for Jersey and a couple of the lads have got good friends there,” Care said.

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