Rugby Championship: South Africa struggle past Argentina in Mendoza
Last Updated: 24/08/13 11:35pm
Morne Steyn celebrates with try-scorer Bjorn Basson (R)
Two second-half penalties from Morné Steyn saw South Africa come from behind to win 22-17 in a brutal match against Argentina.
A repeat of last weekend's 73-13 hammering in Soweto was always unlikely, with Argentina far more productive at containing the Springboks at the breakdown and in the set-pieces.
The hosts general attitude though was outstanding, taking the game to a South Africa side whose execution was far from the excellent level produced the week before.
The hosts couldn't have wished for a better start. Capitalising on loose ball at the ruck, Argentina surged upfield and from an attacking lineout five metres out they unleashed a clever rolling maul, with Juan Manuel Leguizamon touching down despite a hint of obstruction.
Steyn and Felipe Contepomi traded penalties before the Springboks drew level, Bjorn Basson finding his way over after a harried turnover at the ruck created an overlap on the left-hand side.
It was a score that perhaps would have eluded a maturing South Africa side a year ago, but the 2013 version is a different beast and made the most of this rare chance.
Juandré Kruger's try was ruled out for an earlier knock-on at the lineout closely after Ruan Pienaar was also denied a score, beaten to the bounce in the dead-ball area by Martin Landajo.
South Africa were struggling to find the fluidity that served them so well a week before and their attitude was puzzling; a poor decision to opt for the corner instead of a simple penalty backfired on the Boks as an easy three points went begging with 25 minutes gone.
Their attack was also littered with knock-ons, with every single one giving the home side and their supporters renewed hope.
That hope was then converted into a second try; centre Marcelo Bosch forcing his way over through the tackle of Jannie du Plessis to put the Pumas up 17-10, Steyn responding with a long-range penalty before half-time.
The Springboks were reinvigorated after the break though and another Steyn penalty cut the deficit to just one point.
Contepomi's departure with a shoulder injury felt like hammer blow to Argentina's prospects, but the continued tenacity shown by the hosts at the ruck meant that they kept their slender lead.
Repetitive small errors didn't help to calm what was already a tempestuous atmosphere and young lock Eben Etzebeth was penalised for lashing out, due to his unhappiness over a reported bite from an Argentinian player.
Experience was introduced in the form of Bismarck du Plessis, who won his 50th cap off the bench and capped it with a series of effective choke tackles to stifle Argentina's possession - but the Boks were still facing an uphill battle.
Steyn's penalty in the 71st minute after a collapsed maul finally put South Africa ahead for the first time in the match - a slender two-point lead silencing the crowd as the match drew to a close.
Desperate to create a final opportunity, Argentina failed to produce the necessary field position to generate a penalty or drop goal, instead finding themselves pinned back in their own 22.
Steyn's final penalty confirmed the result, but Argentina should take heart from an encouraging performance, despite their first win in The Rugby Championship still eluding them against an average South African performance.