The Southern Kings beat the Jaguares 30-31 at the Estadio Jose Amalfitani in Buenos Aires in a scrappy but entertaining nine-try game in Argentina to earn a famous victory.
In a game of fine margins, the South Africans edged clear after Nicolás Sánchez (4) and Joaquín Díaz (2) Bonilla had a terrible day from the kicking tee.
Makazole Mapimpi and Joaquín Tuculet each grabbed a brace for their respective teams, however, it was the accurate boot of Kings’ skipper Lionel Cronje that saw the men from the Eastern Cape home.
The flyhalf kicked four conversions and a penalty for a game-winning match haul of 11 points to help his side claim another monumental win away from home in this year’s Super Rugby competition.
The Argentinians were poor in almost all facets of the game, except in attack where they scored some wonderful tries with grubber kicks, cross-kicks and sharp offloading and some dancing feet by Sánchez.
However, their set pieces were a mess, losing a scrum and three lineouts – one at the end of the game which led to Wandile Mjekevu’s try, and with the hooter already sounded, a lineout that was overthrown.
There was parity in the scrums in the first 40 minutes, but after that, in the second-half, the Kings bulldozed their hosts off two scrums, making the visitors look more like an Australian scrum than one from Argentina.
For the visitors, Chris Cloete, Mapimpi, Cronje, Luzuko Vulindlu and Ross Geldenhuys were superb. Cronje led his side with authority and more than a little fight.
Cloete, unlucky not to be in the Springbok match-day squad, caused havoc at the breakdown.
The Kings forwards all shone and much of the foundation for this victory came from the tight five’s dominance, none more so, than the final quarter of play.
Juan Manuel Leguizamón’s early try gave the home team a 5-nil lead, but it was in the second quarter, that the game came alive.
Vulindlu’s try from close range and Mapimpi’s first of the game, sandwiched a rare Sánchez penalty to give the Kings an 8-14 lead before the half hour.
But, a minute later, Matías Moroni collected a bouncing ball from a stray pass, gave the ball to the outstanding Tuculet. The fullback puts in a little grubber for the wing, who beats Malcolm Jaer to the ball to score
The fullback put in a little grubber for the wing, who beat Malcolm Jaer to the ball to score to make it a one-point ballgame.
With minutes remaining, Sánchez Tangoed his way over the whitewash.
The Pumas’ flyhalf took the ball from Martín Landajo, dances through three Kings forwards and scored under the posts.
He beat Mzamo Majola and Dayan van der Westhuizen before breaking Berton Klaasen’s weak tackle. He did not miss this time and the Jaguares led by six at the break.
The home team came out firing after the interval, with Tuculet getting his first of the game.
The fullback gathered Sánchez’s wonderfully weighted grubber and dotted down in the corner. At 25-14, the signs were ominous for the South Africans.
Cronje opted for poles soon after, using his leadership skills to good effect, knowing that with Los Pumas’ standoff not finding his radar, it was imperative that he keep the scoreboard ticking over.
Sánchez missed his fourth kick from six before Mapimpi got his second. Malcolm Jaer made the break, passed to the winger, who played a one-two with Vulindlu before dotting down.
The captain’s conversion reduced the gap to a single point. All the momentum was with the Kings.
Joaquín Díaz Bonilla missed his first of two kicks at goal before Mjekevu scored to put his team in front – a lead they would not relinquish.
The winger collected the ball at first receiver from Stefan Ungerer and raced away to score.
There was time for a little scare. Bonilla kicked a wonderful cross-kick bomb, which the Tuculet gathered over the whitewash to score, but the flyhalf missed the conversion.
The Kings’ scrum was starting to destroy their opponents, as the Jaguares’ forwards wilted under the strain of the Saffa pack’s pressure.
The home team did mount one last attack, but their lineout missed a beat when it needed to be on song, and the Kings held on for their well deserved away win in South America.
Final Score: Jaguares 30 (20) Kings 31 (14)
Tries – Leguizamón, Boffelli, Sánchez, Tuculet (2)
Pen – Sánchez
Con – Sánchez
Tries – Vulindlu, Mapimpi (2), Mjekevu
Pen – Cronje
Con – Cronje (4)
Referee: Jamie Nutbrown
Assistant Ref 1: Pali Deluca
Assistant Ref 2: Damian Schneider
TMO: Santiago Borsani
Jaguares: 15 Joaquín Tuculet, 14 Matías Moroni, 13 Matías Orlando, 12 Bautista Ezcurra, 11 Emiliano Boffelli, 10 Nicolás Sánchez, 9 Martín Landajo (captain), 8 Leonardo Senatore, 7 Juan Manuel Leguizamón, 6 Pablo Matera, 5 Matías Alemanno, 4 Guido Petti, 3 Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro, 2 Julián Montoya, 1 Lucas Noguera.
Replacements: 16 Roberto Tejerizo, 17 Santiago García Botta, 18 Enrique Pieretto, 19 Ignacio Larrague, 20 Rodrigo Báez, 21 Gonzalo Bertranou, 22 Joaquín Díaz Bonilla, 23 Santiago Cordero.
Southern Kings: 15 Malcolm Jaer, 14 Wandile Mjekevu, 13 Berton Klaasen, 12 Luzuko Vulindlu, 11 Makazole Mapimpi, 10 Lionel Cronje (captain), 9 Louis Schreuder, 8 Andisa Ntsila, 7 Tyler Paul, 6 Chris Cloete, 5 Wilhelm van der Sluys, 4 Irne Herbst, 3 Ross Geldenhuys, 2 Michael Willemse, 1 Mzamo Majola.
Replacements: 16 Martin Bezuidenhout, 17 Schalk Ferreira, 18 Dayan van der Westhuizen, 19 Lubabalo Mtyanda, 20 Thembelani Bholi, 21 Masixole Banda, 22 Stefan Ungerer, 23 Yaw Penxe