|Photo UAR: |
Sánchez had his moments but was let down
by too many teammates
Any time a team loses by 40 or more points it is usually based on the fact that it is a match between a Tier One and a lower Tier side. Today, however, this was not the case. South Africa v Argentina was a Tier One v Tier One match but it was a game far closer to that of Wales v Namibia, Australia v Russia, England v Romania or New Zealand v Canada from Rugby World Cup 2011. So out played were the South Americans that the loss at Soccer City gives critics reason to actually question Argentina´s place in the Rugby Championship. It was a far larger loss than anything Italy has recieved in the Six Nations since 2001. So much so that Italy´s largest ever Six Nations defeat came during England´s Golden Era when England won by 57 points at Twickenham over the Italians. Today´s loss was, in other words, larger than anything suffered by Italy in the European equivalent of the Rugby Championship.
Although Argentina was hit hard by injuries no real excuses can account for the extent of the defeat. Argentina entered the match without its captain, Juan Martín Fernández Lobbe and starting loosehead prop Marcos Ayerza. Both players are veterans of professional rugby in Europe with both having one championships for elite club teams. Their loss was compounded by injuries during the match with bug names players and fellow professional club champions Patricio Albacete and Juan Martín Hernández being forced from the field in the first half through injury. Argentina, though, cannot claim to have lost by such a large score due to injury. Ayerza and Fernández Lobbe were injured eight days before the Soccer City match while Albacete was named as a starter while being in doubt.
Argentina had also had more than enough time to prepare for the match and had a complete coaching lineup that ought to have known the ins and outs of the Springboks. A number of possible explanations therefore exist for this afternoons record defeat in Johannesburg. The 73-13 loss was nothing less than humiliation. It was humiliation for the Pumas players, coaches and all Argentineans interested in the sport of rugby. It came with South Africa in full control of the second half and could possibly have never happened had hooker Eusebio Guiñazú not got himself yellow carded in the 30th minute. Guiñazú was correctly yellow carded after he slapped down a pass which would have been a certain try and Argentina was punished with Guiñazú out of play for ten minutes and with South Africa being awarded a penalty try.
The penalty try was converted by Morné Steyn who was phenomenal in landing 12 out of 13 attempts for the match. Steyn had begun the scoring with three penalties in the first quarter. He was matched by Felipe Contepomi who took the kicking duties ahead of Nicolás Sánchez and landed 3 from 3 for the match. The scores were 9-6 after 22 minutes and in the 26th minute a certain try was saved after a superb tackle from Gonzalo Camacho ended what looked likely to be a South African try. South Africa though was in control of possession and from a resulting penalty kicked for the corner rather than for goal and after captain Jean de Villiers had been held up by Juan Imhoff over the line South Africa scored its first try - a penalty try due to Guiñazú having a moment of madness.
Only time will tell as to whether the moment will cost Guiñazú but it certainly cost Argentina on the day as without him Argentina then conceeded a second try with JJ Engelbrecht scoring a fourteen point try in the 33rd minute. It came after Argentina had looked to respond well with Camacho advancing into the Springboks 22. A lack of numbers at the breakdown, however, was enough for South Africa to pass and regather a chip from fullback Willie Le Roux. It was still in the first half but was, in effect, a killer blow. South Africa followed up by almost scoring again before half time but a great covering tackle from Marcelo Bosch ensured that the half time score would remain two times to zero, or 26-6.
Part of South Africa´s ability to control play without Guiñazú was pressure. Argentina´s lineout had been poor with little clean ball being given to Martín Landajo and with a player then gone in addition to the loss of Albacete and Hernández it became a very tough situation. South Africa, had no injury concerns and, instead, scored seven second half tries with many of them being from playing basic rugby. Argentina, though, did have cases of bad luck such as Sánchez being taken out mid air for the third time in the match in the 48th minute. South Africa´s aggressive approach was within the laws but there was more than enough reason to suggest it was a stretch. Argentina´s frustration reached boiling point in the 50th minute when Leonardo Senatore was yellow carded for a tip tackle. The yellow card was entirely justified but it came at a time when nothing had been going right and South Africa was leading 33-6 based on three tries that, arguably, should all have been avoided.
The loss of Senatore was a mirror of that of Guiñazú. Without the backrower Argentina conceeded two tries to make it 45-6 when Argentina was back to fifteen players. The second of the two tries during this period summed up Argentina´s match as Jean de Villiers intercepted a pass from Juan Leguizamón who had been passing to the fullback for a clearing kick. Leguizamón followed this up by missing a deep kick from Morné Steyn. His confidence appeared to have been shattered. Shortly thereafter Argentina had a great try scoring chance after Imhoff linked with Bosch to put the centre through a gap. Bosch´s pass to Agulla was on target but the replacement knocked-on. His basic error combined with his earlier errors may cost him a place in the 23 in Mendoza. South Africa, though, had no concerns with four further tries coming before Argentina scored its only try in the final minute.
The sad sight for Argentina today came down to the simple fact that Argentina was not good enough and South Africa was far too good. What was lacking can not be directed at the players - the talent is there. The issue today was all about tactics. Argentina had no idea how to defend and South Africa was able to play as it pleased throughout the entire second half. The tactics did not challenge the Springboks enough as the Africans were able to cover with ease. A lack of adjustment from Argentina was a concern and, ultimately, played into the arms of the Springboks who withstood the pressure and turn it against Argentina in such an impressive manner. Phelan showed the world today just how not to play against South Africa.
South Africa´s glory was bittersweet for those interested in the global game. Indeed it was also a day of reflection for global authorities. Today´s Argentine side is not the same one that finished third in Rugby World Cup 2007. It should come as a warning of what could happen to Samoa, and future sides, who deliver good results only to be left waiting until it is too late. All eyes now go on Phelan with the Pumas coach needing to make wholesale changes and needing his captain back. The tactics were so poor today that the team to start in Mendoza could be with as many as ten different players. One player who will not return is Albacete who has already been confirmed out of the match.