Boks mount strong second-half fightback to down Pumas in Buenos Aires

Boks mount strong second-half fightback to down Pumas in Buenos Aires

The Springboks managed to put a disappointing first half behind them as they hit back superbly to down Argentina 24-13 in Buenos Aires.

South African fans would have been fearing the worst after a pretty lacklustre opening 40 minutes in which the Boks' discipline and accuracy once again let them down, leading to plenty of frustration and missed opportunities. To make matters worse, flyhalf Manie Libbok didn't bring his kicking boots, something the visitors could ill-afford considering how little else was going their way.

But credit must go to the Springboks, who looked like a totally different team after the break as they ripped the guts out of the Pumas with two quickfire tries to take a lead they would not relinquish again.

By the end of the match, the Boks were utterly dominant on foreign soil, their forwards having taken full control, while the mercurial Libbok also seemed a totally different player - even if his lack of consistency continues to be a concern.

This was overall an impressive performance away from home, however, even if there are still a lot of wrinkles to iron out before next month's World Cup, and not too much time left to do it in.

Just like at Ellis Park a week ago, the match started with a player getting knocked out cold, this time Pumas centre Santiago Chocobares, who fell the wrong way while trying to make a tackle on Libbok.

That was followed by an impressive spell of possession by the Boks, started by a nice little break from Canan Moodie on the outside, leading to several phases of intense pressure as they assaulted the Pumas' line, although there were cheers from the Argentinean fans when Jasper Wiese was held up over the line - and when Manie Libbok's subsequent penalty kick missed the target.

That led to a sloppy period of play from both teams, with the Boks failing to control their own ball on several occasions, handing the advantage back to the home side - although their defence stood firm in response.

Moments later, a charge down from Marvin Orie very nearly led to the opening try, though an unlucky bounce took the ball away from him and over the touchline.

The Boks were starting to find some shape and rhythm, leading to another long period of pressure inside the Pumas' territory, with the impressive Moodie nearly finding a way over the line before being driven into touch.

When Libbok got another chance to get some points on board, he made no mistake as the visitors finally got some reward for all their effort.

The Boks' discipline continued to look shaky, however, and after three penalties took Argentina right to the line, a quick tap from Gonzalo Bertranou saw the scrumhalf catch the defence unaware and score. Emiliano Boffelli's conversion was good too, as the home side took a 7-3 lead.

South Africa had a chance to hit back after a great steal from Deon Fourie led to a penalty kick for the corner, but again they were held up over the line - this time big lock Jean Kleyn - as the Pumas escaped once more. Libbok had another chance to kick for poles but again missed the target as not much continued to go right for the men in green and gold.

Adding insult to injury, a hard-won penalty inside their own territory was overturned for an off-the-ball incident from Orie, as the Boks continued to be their own worst enemies.

That led to a warning from the referee as well, and when Franco Mostert was pinged for a tackle off the ball shortly after, the flanker was sent to the bin. Boffelli gratefully took the points on offer, as the Boks - simply unable to maintain their discipline on defence - went seven points behind.

There was time for another penalty against the South Africans - this time for interference at the line-out - before the referee's half-time whistle finally brought weary Bok fans at home some much-needed relief.

The players must have gotten a right rollicking at half-time, however, because they came out flying in the second half, riding a few penalty advantages to a great try in the corner for Makazole Mapimpi. A couple of smart passes by Jesse Kriel and Damian Willemse led to the space out wide for the winger to score. Libbok nailed a rare conversion from out wide as the Boks suddenly found themselves level on the scoreboard.

Meanwhile, Bulls prop Gerhard Steenekamp came onto the field to make his Test debut.

The great second-half response continued when another penalty advantage put the Boks back in the red zone, allowing Libbok to deliver a superb crossfield kick that picked out Moodie running at pace to cross for another try within minutes of the first.

Libbok couldn't add the extras as the Boks took a 15-10 lead, but Argentina were handed a penalty at the breakdown not long after the restart to allow Boffelli to reduce the deficit to just two points.

Libbok had a chance to return the favour not long after, but again he couldn't convert a fairly straightforward penalty kick.

When another opportunity presented itself shortly after, the Boks bravely gave Libbok another shot from the kicking tee and this time the flyhalf delivered.

The visitors were starting to get more reward for their dominance now, and when Libbok was handed yet another shot at goal after another good period of play led to a scrum penalty, the Stormers star had the distance and direction to put his side eight points clear.

The Bok scrum was starting to make its presence felt following the arrival of several forward replacements, and when the Pumas gave away another penalty right in front, it was an easy decision to allow Libbok to stretch their lead even further.

As the match entered its final 10 minutes, there was a big round of applause as Agustin Creevy came onto the pitch to become the Pumas' first Test centurion.

But Creevy's arrival didn't help Argentina much, as their challenge continued to fall apart in the face of a Bok pack now totally dominating proceedings on the pitch.

With time running out, another period of Springbok pressure appeared to lead to a debut try for Evan Roos, but the referee saw some obstruction in the build-up and the score was chalked off, as it finished 24-13 to the Boks, well-deserved winners in the end.


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