Friday, August 23, 2013

Retro Friday - South Africa vs Argentina 2003

20 year old Hernández
There are only two nations remaining in world rugby who Argentina are yet to beat in an official test match, one of which is South Africa. Whilst there is a strong argument to suggest that Argentina in the guise of "South America" have previously beaten a strong South Africa side in 1982. In 20 years of official matches between Argentina and South Africa, the draw last year in Mendoza where they led until Marcelo Bosch had his kick charged down is the only time they haven't lost.

South Africa for the most part have not been a good opponent for Argentina and notably, in addition to last weekend, in 2007 the Pumas had one of their most disappointing performances of all time losing 13-37 in the World Cup semi final in an error strewn and were simply not themselves and gifted tries to the Springboks.

However there have been a two or three strong chances to beat South Africa that the Pumas have missed in the past. Notably 10 years ago in June 2003 in Port Elizabeth. South Africa at the time were at their lowest ever point of the professional era under the controversial regime ofcoach Rudi Streauli and captain Corné Krige. Argentina had just beaten France twice at home. Despite that though, Argentina were at the time seen as a plucky side capable of an upset and rarely approached matches with the top 8 as favorites.

South Africa broke into an early 10 point lead after a scrappy start to the match from both teams and the Springboks got a charge down try and soon after Rimas Alvarez Kairelis was sin binned. But as soon as Alvarez returned to the field, Argentina scored a wonderful counter attacking try from their own 22 metre line, with some good support play and centre Felipe Contepomi showing good strength to drive over with the help of his teammates.

Despite Argentina not being known as the most flamboyant side at the time, in this particular match they did actually really click attacking wise. The great Pumas flanker Rolando Martín combined with Lucas Ostiglia to create a try for José Nuñez Piossek and from there the Pumas really seemed to be full of belief. The defence got braver and steadier from the Pumas whilst the Springboks were beginning to look blunt attacking wise but stayed in the game through penalties.

Argentina seemed to score again through Felipe Contepomi, but it was disallowed through an incident at the previous ruck between Rimas Alvarez and the Springbok captain Corné Krige. Whilst the Boks got lucky there, soon enough the Pumas got their try through some nice interplay between Piossek, Patricio Albacete and a young Juan Martín Hernández sprinting into score.

However the match went downhill from there for Argentina. They had to dig deeper defensively to defend the 9 point lead. Gonzalo Quesada denied wing Pieter Rossouw with a great tackle from behind, they saw off another set of phases, but eventually with time dying out the pressure told and sub Brent Russell eventually scored from an overlap.

With 2 points to protect, the Pumas looked very much set to do it as they had the put into a scrum in the Springboks half. But Nicolás Fernández Miranda put in a chip kick that was probably not the right option, the bounce didn't go the Pumas way and then they just spread it wide past what was a tiring Argentine side and won a penalty which Louis Koen who didn't miss all game duly slotted.

It was a disappointing finish for the Pumas to have come so close. The Springboks later become a much more powerful team and were the 2004 Tri Nations champions. Felipe Contepomi is the only survivor from the 2003 clash but also featuring were Juan Martín Hernández and Patricio Albacete - both of whom are not going to play in Mendoza this weekend due to injury. Captaining Argentina in the 2003 clash was Gonzalo Longo due to Agustín Pichot not being available. 

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