Boks hold on at Loftus
Rain makes play somewhat tricky for Boks
In a match as desultory as the weather, a bedraggled Springbok side hardly had the look of a team to strike terror in the hearts of the All Blacks and the Wallabies as they ground out a win over Argentina’s Pumas.
Conditions were difficult at Loftus Versfeld last night for the start of the Boks’ Rugby Championship campaign, and for the Pumas, the close defeat would have felt like a moral victory.
After being smashed in the corresponding fixture in Joburg last year and then holding the Boks to a draw back home, the Argentinians will fancy their chances of turning over Jean de Villiers’ men in their rematch in Salta on Saturday.
Both teams were forced to make late changes before the start. Willem Alberts cried off injured and was replaced by Marcel Coetzee, with Teboho Mohoje moving on to the bench. In the Pumas, centre Juan Martín Hernández had to be replaced by Santiago Iglesias.
But the main player turned out to be the weather. The rain, which at times intensified to a heavy downpour, began to fall as the teams were lining up for the anthems.
This intervention of the elements changed the nature of the game as the players struggled to control the wet ball and keep their footing as they splashed through water collecting under the surface.
But the Springboks made a stunning start as Ruan Pienaar scored in the right-hand corner in the second minute. The scrum half had caught the Pumas unawares by breaking on the blindside and a quick one-two with winger Cornal Hendricks set him free for a sprint to the corner.
Handrè Pollard slotted the angled conversion but after that the scoreboard changed only twice more – Pollard and his opposite number Nicolás Sánchez exchanging penalties.
The Pumas gave the Boks a scare in the first scrum when they shoved them off the ball, but this small triumph that forwards set such store by had an inverse negative effect as the tourists conceded penalties by being too eager.
The ball hardly reached the teams’ respective backlines as high kicks became the preferred form of attack.
The weather might have been chilly but tempers were hot as soon after the restart. Eben Etzebeth, who had replaced Bakkies Botha, tangled with substitute scrum half Tomás Cubelli in a most unequal match-up.
In Sydney ,the All Blacks failed for the second time in their history to set a record of 18 consecutive test victories when they were held to a 12-12 draw by the Wallabies. Rain and a soggy field made for difficult conditions and neither side scored a try.
New Zealand were the first country to get to 17 straight wins during the 60s and Richie McCaw’s men will have to be satisfied to share the record with their predecessors and the Springboks who reached the mark under Nick Mallett in 1997/98.
SLIPPERY WHEN WET Willie le Roux tries holding on to the ball during the Boks’ rainy encounter against Argentina at Loftus last night