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Springboks survive Pumas scare

South Africa survived a huge scare before making it back-to-back wins over Argentina at the start of their new Rugby Championship campaign.

The Springboks squeezed past Argentina 13-6 in tough conditions in Pretoria last weekend but looked set to suffer their first ever defeat to the Pumas as they trailed 28-16 with just over 20 minutes to go in Salta on Saturday.

They fought back superbly to take the lead only for Argentina to go back in front again late on, and it needed Morne Steyn's cool penalty conversion with three minutes left to decide the match in South Africa's favour, the 2007 World Cup winners edging the encounter 33-31.

The win leaves South Africa top of the standings after two rounds, one point ahead of New Zealand, but it would not have been unjust if Argentina had claimed their first win of the southern hemisphere competition since joining in 2012.

The Pumas had run South Africa close in their last two home matches in the Rugby Championship, drawing 16-16 and losing 22-17, and they had the Springboks under serious pressure for much of this encounter.

The teams were level at 6-6, two Handre Pollard penalties for the Springboks cancelling out a Nicolas Sanchez penalty and Juan Martin Hernandez drop goal, when Argentina scored the opening try of the game in the 26th minute through Manuel Montero.

Sanchez's touchline conversion made it 13-6 and South Africa knew they were in a real game, if last weekend's match and previous experiences in South America had not already forewarned them of that.

The visitors battled back though, and another Pollard penalty followed by a converted Bryan Habana try gave the South Africans a 16-13 half-time lead at the Padre Ernesto Martearena Stadium..

Heyneke Meyer's men would have hoped to have built on that in the second half and dampen Argentina's fire, but the opposite happened as the Pumas scored 15 unanswered points in quick succession to take a firm grip in the match

Replacement Tomas Cubelli and Joaquin Tuculet both crossed for tries while Sanchez added a conversion and a penalty to put the hosts 12 points clear.

It was looking ominous for South Africa but they dug deep and a purple patch that saw them score converted tries through Cornal Hendricks and Marcell Coetzee got them back in front at 30-28.

That was still not the end of the drama though, with the lead changing hands twice more again before the final whistle.

Marcelo Bosch's 74th-minute penalty had Argentina briefly dreaming of a first victory over the Springboks, but three minutes later Steyn slotted over a three-pointer of his own and there was to be no way late fairytale for the unlucky Pumas.


From Belfast Telegraph