South Africa beat Argentina 32-12 to open their 2021 Rugby Championship with a comfortable win at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, Gqeberha (Port Elizabeth).
This was not a vintage display by the Springboks, who rotated their squad after a brutal British & Irish Lions series.
South Africa out-scored Argentina three tries to nil thanks to another clinical attacking and dogged defensive display on the Indian Ocean.
Cobus Reinach, Aphelele Fassi, and Jaden Hendrikse dotted down for TRC 2019 defending champions as the World Cup winners continued their good form despite all the changes.
Hendrikse capped a remarkable day after the Sharks scrumhalf was drafted into the matchday squad following Herschel Jantjies’ late withdrawal.
Jantjies pulled out of the match with a hip-pointer niggle. The 21-year-old halfback made an instant impact off the bench.
Fassi could have had a double, but his 71st-minute try was chalked off after a TMO referral.
Elton Jantjies had a decent day, setting up Fassi’s 14th-minute try.
The 31-year-old (17 points) kicked five penalties and converted Reinach’s 19th-minute score after a solid display at first receiver.
Nicolás Sánchez kicked four penalties for the South Americans, but Mario Ledesma’s men could not find their way over the whitewash.
The Springboks led 21-9 at the break after two tries in quick succession by Reinach and Fassi, and the boot of Jantjies.
Sánchez’s three penalties accounted for all of Argentina‘s first-half points. To be honest, the visitors never looked like crossing the Boks’ try-line.
Los Pumas could only muster three second-half points, which is not good enough.
South Africa’s solid first quarter set the tone as they cross twice to open up a comfortable lead
Jantjies opened the scoring with a third-minute penalty before a bit of fortunate saw the hosts take a 10-0 lead in the opening quarter-of-an-hour.
An overelaborate attacking move outside the Boks’ 22 by Argentina’s backs ended in calamity.
Bautista Delguy and Jerónimo de la Fuente’s mistimed scissor-move saw Reinach pick up the loose ball, and race down the right-hand touchline to score the game’s first try.
Jantjies converted from near the corner, but Sánchez put his team on the board two minutes later.
The Boks, however, struck immediately when Eben Etzebeth won the ball from the restart to set up an attack inside the opposition’s half.
Reinach shifted to Jantjies, outside the Pumas’ 22, who opted to use the boot rather than pass.
Fassi gathered Jantjies’ pin-point crossfield kick with one hand and slipped Delguy’s cover tackle to score his second Test try.
The Lions flyhalf could not convert this time, but the Boks had a 12-point lead.
South Africa, by now, started to dominate the breakdown and set-piece, winning penalties for Jantjies to keep the scoreboard ticking.
Jantjies put the defending champions 18-3 up in the 24th-minute.
Frans Steyn had a chance from long-range to increase the score, but the two-time World Cup winner pulled his kick wide.
The two standoffs traded three penalties in the last five minutes of the half.
Argentina had to take the points because they could not break down Jacques Nienaber’s defence (who can?).
Boks pull away after the interval as Pumas fire blanks
Sánchez’s attempted drop-goal soon after the break fell under the posts as the wind took control.
The veteran playmaker did, however, slot his fourth penalty two minutes later.
It would be the only points for Argentina in the second stanza.
Steyn missed another penalty, this time from halfway.
But Jantjies added goals on either side of the Free-State centre’s attempt to make it 27-12 before the hour mark.
The game broke up as the benches flooded the field, a scrappy last 20 minutes came alive when Fassi thought he had his second.
The 23-year-old flyer finished in the corner after some pick-and-drives by the Boks forward.
Reinach’s floated skip-pass put the winger away; however, TMO Tom Foley pinged Malcolm Marx for crawling in the build-up to the score.
It did not matter though, because the Boks had the game – and the points – in the bag when Hendrikse found his way over.
Marco van Staden’s strong run from the back of the scrum sets up Hendrikse, who dives over in the corner to score on debut.
Morné Steyn could not convert, missing his touchline drop-kick as the Boks chased the bonus-point.
Final Score: South Africa 32 (21) Argentina 12 (9)
Tries – Reinach, Fassi, Hendrikse
Pen – E. Jantjies (5)
Con – E. Jantjies
Pen – Sánchez (4)
Referee: Andrew Brace
Assistant Ref 1: Karl Dickson
Assistant Ref 2: AJ Jacobs
TMO: Tom Foley
15 Damian Willemse, 14 Sbu Nkosi, 13 Jesse Kriel, 12 Frans Steyn, 11 Aphelele Fassi, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Cobus Reinach, 8 Jasper Wiese, 7 Kwagga Smith, 6 Siya Kolisi (captain), 5 Lood de Jager, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Wilco Louw, 2 Joseph Dweba (debut), 1 Ox Nché
Replacements: 16 Malcolm Marx, 17 Trevor Nyakane, 18 Vincent Koch, 19 Marvin Orie, 20 Marco van Staden, 21 Dan du Preez, 23 Morné Steyn, 25 Jaden Hendrikse
15 Santiago Carreras, 14 Bautista Delguy, 13 Santiago Chocobares, 12 Jerónimo de la Fuente, 11 Matías Moroni, 10 Nicolás Sánchez, 9 Felipe Ezcurra, 8 Rodrigo Bruni, 7 Facundo Isa, 6 Pablo Matera, 5 Marcos Kremer, 4 Guido Petti, 3 Francisco Gómez Kodela, 2 Julián Montoya (captain), 1 Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro
Replacements: 16 Facundo Bosch, 17 Carlos Muzzio (debut), 18 Santiago Medrano, 19 Tomás Lavanini, 20 Matías Alemanno, 21 Gonzalo Bertranou, 22 Domingo Miotti, 23 Sebastian Cancelliere